Sailors, civilians naturalized in ceremony at Chapel of Hope
Friends, families and co-workers looked on as 28 Sailors and civilians became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony conducted at the Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka’s Chapel of Hope, June 5.
Candidates consisted of people from nine different nations who came together as one to commit to the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
“As the head of consul affairs here in Japan, I have many duties but none of them give me more pleasure than welcoming you as new US citizens,” said Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs and Consul General U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, Paul M. Fitzgerald. “It’s humbling in a way because quite frankly it’s an incredible experience to see all of you join the ranks of the great men and women who have preceded you for some 400 years. Ever since, the first migrants have arrived on America’s shores and began to carve a new way of life out of the wilderness, joining the Native American people of the continent. I take great pride in being here because accepting new citizens from around the world is what helps keep our country vibrant, strong and diverse.”
Fitzgerald shared with those in attendance the journey of his own family, from both Canada and Italy, while reciting words said by President Barrack Obama, May 10, 2011;
“That’s the promise of this country; that anyone can write the next chapter of our story. It doesn’t matter where you come from; what matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe all of us are equal and deserve the freedom to pursue happiness. In embracing America, you can become American and that enriches all of us.”
The Oath of Allegiance was administered by Michael Hickman, field office director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Beijing, China.
The newly appointed American people were presented certificates of citizenship, followed by a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Upon the completion of a video presentation by President Barack Obama, each of the new U.S. citizens had an opportunity to reflect on their journey’s to pursue their life long dream.
“Actually it has taken me about four years since I joined the military to become a citizen,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Dengcheng Zhao, originally from Tianjin, Peoples Republic of China. “In the beginning I began to have doubts and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with it; I felt I should just serve then go back to China but, after awhile, I realized that this is something that I should do.
Zhao currently serves as a part of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Five One (HSM-51) “WARLORDS” at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. His commanding officer, Cmdr. David Loo, happens to be Chinese American.
“Cmdr. Loo was very encouraging,” said Zhao. “He continued to support my pursuit of becoming an American citizen, and even provided some guidance on the matter. Just seeing what he has accomplished made me want to pursue my citizenship even further. I also understood that in order for me to work in the squadron, I needed my citizenship in order to work in some of the classified workspaces.”
For Zhao, time was probably the main obstacle, which to him was the only real difficulty in the process.
“The legal office (in Atsugi) provided excellent assistance and helped me through all the paperwork,” said Zhao. “It was a pretty easy process, but I did have to wait up to half a year because I wasn’t able to attend an earlier interview and ceremony conducted in Okinawa about 3 months ago, due to duty commitments, but here I am and I am done.”