NORFOLK (NNS) -- Sunrays broke through the cloudy sky and illuminated the fantail of the decommissioned Iowa-class battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) as 29 service members took their oath of allegiance and became the newest U.S. citizens, Nov. 8.
Hospitalman Apprentice Thelma Cudjoe, from Ghana, became a U.S. citizen, following in her sister, Ship’s Serviceman 2nd Class Elaine Mainoo’s, footsteps.
“It feels amazing to see my sister gain her citizenship today,” said Mainoo who was sitting among the crowd of supporting family members watching the ceremony. “I was just telling her that all the memories are coming back to me from the day that I became a citizen.”
Following the ceremony, both Cudjoe and Mainoo said they agreed, becoming a citizen feels like they’re no longer guests, and America is their new home.
“I’ve seen all the benefits,” said Mainoo. “It’s been a life changing experience for me. When she decided to be a citizen, I was happy for her and I knew she was taking a good step.”
U.S. citizenship affects the careers, families and personal lives of those being naturalized.
According to the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility, non-U.S. citizens are ineligible for a security clearance, and may not qualify for certain jobs in the Navy.
After Mainoo took her oath of allegiance during the ceremony, she applied for a security clearance, which she said greatly impacted her life as a ship’s serviceman. After earning her citizenship and receiving her security clearance, her command gave her the opportunity to handle more sensitive financial operations.
For Cudjoe, becoming a U.S. citizen allotted her the opportunity to submit a package to become a commissioned officer.
“Gaining my citizenship will help me become a medical officer, and that’s what I’ve wanted to do since I joined the Navy,” said Cudjoe.
Their U.S. citizenship also opens the door to their family that still lives in Ghana to immigrate into the United States.
“Getting my citizenship will help me bring my whole family over here,” said Cudjoe. “It’s been about five years since I’ve seen all of them.”
These sisters from Ghana expressed how eager they are to support one of the most important principles that America was founded on, the right to elect a representative through the democratic process.
“I can vote and that’s the biggest benefit from becoming a citizen that I’ve experienced so far,” said Mainoo.
Cudjoe and Mainoo said they’re both thankful for God, for life and the new experiences that their United States citizenship will bring for them.
“It’s a great feeling to be an American citizen,” said Mainoo. “I’m no longer just an immigrant, you and I are the same.”
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, over 106 thousand military service members have become United States citizens since October 1, 2001. On November 8, 2018, 28 other military service members took their oath of allegiance to become naturalized citizens with Cudjoe.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element, visit www.navy.mil/local/npasehq/.