CAMP VICTORY, Iraq --
Fourteen Marines and sailors from the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) became U.S. citizens in a history-making naturalization ceremony in Baghdad’s Al Faw palace, July 4, 2009.
During the ceremony, 239 service members from 59 different countries, including Iraq, were sworn in as American citizens – the largest ceremony held by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to date in Iraq.
The vice president of the United States, Joseph Biden, and the commander of all Coalition forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, attended the ceremony, both making heartfelt speeches about America’s great diversity and strength.
“You are the source of our freedom, you and all who came before you,” Biden said to the new U.S. citizens. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.’’
After the service members were sworn in and speeches were made, the troops got up to receive a congratulatory handshake from Biden, a coin from Odierno, as well as an American flag and their certificate from the USCIS.
One Marine naturalized was Cpl. Daniel E. Usani, a disbursing clerk currently filling a security role with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 2nd MLG (Fwd). Usani and his mother came to the U.S. from Nigeria in May 2006 seeking better futures.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., he joined the Marine Corps, which he said has been a great decision.
“It’s been good to me,” he explained. “For the most part, I’m in a fantasy. Everything I set my mind to gets accomplished.”
He said that becoming a U.S. citizen has opened new career opportunities of which he plans to take advantage of.
“I wanted to get this naturalization so bad because of some of the [military occupational specialties] I couldn’t get because I wasn’t a citizen,” he said. “I couldn’t do [counter intelligence] or [Marine security guard duty]. Right after I get back to Ramadi, the paperwork is starting; I’m going to go with CI.”
When Usani approached Biden to shake his hand, Usani said he was met with a warm and humorous response.
“The vice president cracked me up,” he said. “I was going to stand up all serious and get my stuff – you know, military bearing and all – and then sit back down, but the first thing the vice president said to me was ‘you need to get back in shape, you’re getting fat’. He was really cool.” Usani is tall and trim.
Since the naturalization of service members who serve in war was first authorized by President George W. Bush in September 2001, nearly 50,000 military members have been naturalized, 3,000 of those on Iraqi soil.