SAN DIEGO -- A naturalization ceremony during which 41 servicemembers from 19 countries became citizens was held at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, Nov. 6.
"Today was an all-military ceremony aboard USS Midway," said Marie Sebrechts, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "It is in anticipation and commemoration of Veteran's Day, which is coming up. It also is election-day today, so these are the last new U.S. citizens in San Diego that will be able to register and vote today."
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Gray Gray, originally from Liberia, put the ceremony into perspective for many participants.
"Today was probably one of the most important days of my life, at least since I've been here," Gray said after taking part in the ceremony. "It's something I've dreamed about since I was a kid."
The ceremony was administered by the Honorable William V. Gallo, a U.S. Magistrate Judge, who also addressed the new citizens.
"Today, it isn't easy to be patriotic and fight for your country," said Gallo. "You did it for a country that wasn't yours until today and that, my fellow Americans, deserves recognition."
The ceremony also featured a performance by the Navy Band Southwest Brass Quintet and a color guard from Naval Base Coronado.
"Growing up with my friends, it was something we talked about (immigrating to America). It was almost like a fantasy," said Gray. "'One day we'll grow up and go to America,' cause everybody wants to come here for the opportunity and everything else."
Gray has been enlisted in the United States Navy for almost four years.
"I've felt like a citizen since I joined the Navy, I haven't felt any different," said Gray. "I haven't been treated any differently, or anything like that. I felt like a citizen already and now I have the paper to prove it."
All servicemembers who apply for citizenship are required to complete at least one year of service, speak English, have no criminal record, demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government, demonstrate good moral character and take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution in order to become eligible for citizenship.