|Service members from four branches and seven states swear-in as citizens at the 2010 American Heroes Celebration.
Story by Staff Sgt. Daniel Griego
"Patriotism is voluntary," said former Seaman and politician Jesse Ventura. "It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief."
One could not find greater patriotism than from the servicemembers who valiantly serve a country of which they are not citizens. For 15 such veterans, that changed on Saturday, April 17 when the Honorable Lee Yeakel opened a special session of the US District Court to swear in these incomparable volunteers as US citizens.
The ceremony, held during Camp Mabry's 4th annual American Heroes Celebration, took place in front of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Traveling Wall. The wall, which is a precise replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., offered a somber and reverent setting for this significant occasion.
"I can think of no more appropriate place for this," said Retired Lt. Col. Donald R. Allen, CEO of the AVTT, who also served as the distinguished guest speaker for the event. "Our history has taught us that we were founded on the principle of freedom at any cost."
The newly immunized citizens came from 13 different countries, including Kenya, Mexico, Russia and Kazakhstan. Their services included the US Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. The troops, ranging in ages from 19 to 39, included four combat veterans and eight Texas residents.
Army Spc. Victor A. Becerra, who was born in Mexico and raised in California, deployed to Iraq twice before even becoming a citizen. A member of the 36th Infantry Division, he spent his second deployment to Iraq training their police force.
"What we were doing was overseeing the training of 6th Iraqi division," he said, "to make sure that their forces were properly trained so they could stand to protect the region that they were in charge of."
Becerra always felt close to the nation for which he's served for years.
"I've been an American since I first put on this uniform, ever since I started speaking the language," he said. "I feel just as proud to be a part of this country."
Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, commander of the Texas Military Forces, presented each new citizen with his coin and congratulated them on their achievement.
"It took maybe six to eight months," said Becerra. "That included the studying for the exam for the interview. It's good to know how this country has developed when it was founded back in the 18th century."
"They were defending and protecting and fighting for a country that they weren't even a citizen of," said Allen. "That, my friend, is a true measure of patriotism, these are great patriots. We should be very proud that as a country, there are people that are willing to fight for us to become one of us."
Without a doubt, these brave service members have worked and devoted themselves to the fulfillment of a life of service.
"I've always been an American at heart," said Becerra. "But I could say that today, it's official; I am an American."