PEARL HARBOR -- Hawaii welcomed America's newest citizens as they took the oath of allegiance aboard the historic Battleship Missouri Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Sept. 17. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii introduced 97 naturalized American citizens during a special Citizenship and Constitution Day naturalization ceremony. The ceremony was part of an annual celebration by USCIS in honor of Constitution and Citizenship Day, which are celebrated in conjunction Sept. 17, the day the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787. "While it is with a tremendous amount of honor and pride that I'm able to stand before you as the first person and to say to my fellow citizens, congratulations," said U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright. "We all know that your journey to this day has been a long one, but I know how proud each of you are and your loved ones are of you that you can now utter, this very simple words, I am an American." Of the newly naturalized U.S. citizens from 28 countries, 10 were servicemembers, including U.S. Navy Sailors, Personnel Specialist Seaman Mario Alvarez Mendoza and Boatswain's Mate Seaman Apprentice Christian Morales.
"My family is really proud of me. I'm the first member of my family to become a citizen," said Mendoza. "It means a lot to me, being the first one, and having my brothers, sisters and everyone else look up to me. That means a lot." "I have always wanted to join the military," said Morales. "And for the military to benefit me this greatly. I am an actual American citizen and I am protecting my country, I feel really blessed." During the ceremony Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, spoke of the commitment and sacrifice shown during recent events and the responsibility of being an American citizen.
"In becoming citizens of the United States today you are showing your own commitment to upholding the ideals and values and responsibilities of being an American," said Williams. "You pledged allegiance, you exercised the right to vote, you have faith, and freedom and equality. I commend your choice to being an American, I'm proud of it. I salute your accomplishments and I look forward to seeing all of you achieve as a citizen of the United States of America the same dreams and at the high heels that I had the chance to aspire to. We will admire your history and remember that history does not stand still and neither will you." The memorial was chosen as the site for the naturalization ceremony due to its historical significance. The documents that officially ended World War II were signed aboard USS Missouri (BB 63) in 1945.