Immigrant soldiers become U.S. citizens

Updated: 01/10/2014 6:14 PM | Created: 01/10/2014 4:58 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico got seven brand new U.S. citizens Friday – and they earned it the hard way. 

They've already done more for their country than millions of us who were born here. They put on a uniform and picked up a weapon and served their country – even though it wasn't their country yet. They're immigrants, lawful permanent residents serving in the Army, Navy , Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard.

Sam Hernandez is from Mexico, but he grew up in the U.S. Army. His dad was a soldier. Sam is an Air Force crew chief, an airman first class.

"It's incredibly significant to me and my family because I'm finally able to become a citizen of this great country," Hernandez said before citizenship ceremonies at Albuquerque's Veterans Memorial. "I have been a citizen, now I'm finally a naturalized citizen."

Falko Schoeneweiss was in the German Air Force, serving at Holloman Air Force Base, when he fell in love with New Mexico and the United States. Now he's a U.S. Army nurse, a first lieutenant.

"Becoming a U.S. citizen, being able to permanently stay here, to have broad opportunities to serve in the U.S. military – ja – it's a long road that finally comes to its destination!"

They came from Mexico, Germany, El Salvador, Bhutan, Nepal – taking the fast track to citizenship by serving honorably, learning English, and taking the Oath of Allegiance to the country they're already serving.

The U.S. government makes it much faster for military people to become citizens than it does for regular civilian immigrants. If you're serving in a time of active hostility and danger it can happen even faster.

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