Story by Jason Bortz on 08/01/2019Almost 200 new United States citizens recited, "I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America," at a naturalization ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola Aug. 1.
The atrium at the museum was converted into a courtroom for a ceremony that included four judges from the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida. The Honorable M. Casey Rodgers served as the presiding judge for the ceremony.
"This is a momentous day, even life-changing for some of these citizens," said Rodgers, who has been presiding over naturalization ceremonies since 2003. "It's also one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of my position as a judge."
For the participants, their dream of becoming a United States citizen was finally reached. Coming from 58 countries from all corners of the globe, the new U.S. citizens navigated the naturalization process and now share the common bond of being an American.
"Your representation as an American citizen is not based on race or where you came from," said Judge Hope T. Cannon, whose family moved from Vietnam to the United States when she was a young child. "We are all Americans."
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens were welcomed into the fabric of our nation during the last decade. In fiscal year 2016, 752,800 people were naturalized. In order to become a naturalized citizen, candidate must meet several requirements such as being at least 18 years of age, being a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and has resided in the U.S. for at least five years and having a knowledge of U.S. government and history. After meeting all eligibility requirements must also pass an English test and a 10-question civics test and answer questions about their moral character.
"The United States is the land of opportunity and I am proud to be an American now," said Ken Larson, who came from Canada and has lived in the United States since 2000. "It was absolutely worth going through the process."
During the ceremony, each candidate stated their name and country of origin. The culmination of the ceremony was the candidates reciting the "Oath of Allegiance" in unison, which was the final step to becoming a U.S. citizen.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer, NAS Pensacola. Kinsella was born in the United States, but grew up in Ireland.
"My parents went through a naturalization ceremony just like this when they came to the United States from Ireland," said Kinsella, who left Ireland after high school to join the U.S. Navy. "My Dad would always tell me that America is the greatest country in the world and that in America I could be anything I wanted. You and your children are now the future of this country. Never forget where you came from, it is part of who you are and that diversity is where our strength lies as Americans."
NAS Pensacola, referred to as the "Cradle of Naval Aviation," is designed to support operational and training missions of tenant commands including Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC); Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC); the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT); Marine Aviation Training Support Groups (MATSG) 21 and 23; and is the headquarters for Naval Education and Training Command (NETC).