Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Proud To Be(come) An American

It's February now, and I realize that my posting frequency dropped a bit last month. Partly that's because things here are "routine" now and it's a bit difficult to come up with topics sometimes, and partly it's because there have been days when I just didn't feel like writing anything even though I could have. But I'll try to be a bit more consistent this month.

This past Saturday, January 29th, was a momentous day. It's a momentous day for me because it's my Dad's birthday, but it was also momentous for a whole lot of other people. Our brass quintet was assigned to provide music for a naturalization ceremony--numerous servicemembers serving in Afghanistan officially became citizens of the United States. On the surface that might seem a bit strange, but yes, one does not have to be a full citizen of the US to participate in the Armed Forces. (Though they must still pass the criminal background checks and other paperwork gymnastics that are required of US citizens, in addition to meeting physical requirements and passing the ASVAB test. They generally must also have a functional grasp of English, typically to include the words "yes Drill Sergeant!!!") I don't know the exact number who were there Saturday, but there were quite a lot, and from numerous backgrounds. I think I remember hearing that about thirty different countries could claim the origins of our new Americans. That didn't surprise me too much; during my time in the Army I've personally served with (or at least met) people born in China, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Italy, and Egypt. (I can't be certain they were all US citizens, and some may have gained citizenship prior to joining the Army. I know of two for certain who did gain citizenship during their service, however.)

I do have an admiration for those people--they have spent a good deal of time and effort to gain something I've had since the moment I was born. What I, and most of the people I know, have by accident, they have by choice. The magnitude of the event was marked by the presence of the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry (himself a military veteran), and several Congressional Representatives, particularly Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) who was a guest speaker along with the Ambassador. Mr. Issa commented on how unusual it was to have such a ceremony someplace other than the US, but that having it in Afghanistan was an example of the level of commitment that these people have made to the country. We were also treated to a pre-recorded address by President Obama, followed by a video presentation of Lee Greenwood's iconic "God Bless the USA." It's a good feeling to know that so many other people want to call your home their home. After all, even though the land is vast and magnificent, it's the people who make it America the Beautiful.

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