June 28, 2009
by Susy Raybon
In Tegucigalpa, Honduras this month, America welcomed two
foreign-born soldiers as citizens.
On June 8, the US Embassy hosted the first ever US Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalization ceremony ever held in
"I can think of no greater privilege than to be the first to welcome
as the newest citizens of the United States, two American soldiers,
who currently serve our nation in Honduras and who have each already
completed two tours in Iraq," said Michael Aytes, USCIS' Acting
Army Staff Sgt. Damien Milne, a native of the Marshall Islands,
submitted his application for U.S. citizenship less than a month ago.
He received a perfect score on the USCIS naturalization test. He now
calls Killeen, Texas (Ft. Hood) his home.
Army Sgt. Carmen Villa, born in Mexico, also had a perfect score on
her USCIS test. She resides in Columbia, SC, a member of a US Army
Honduras is one of 15 countries since 2004 where US Citizenship and
Immigration Services have conducted naturalization ceremonies outside
the United States. Before Oct. 1, 2004, military service members
could only naturalize in the United States.
One week after the soldiers in Honduras became US citizens the
American flag-draped casket of Sgt. Jasper Obakrairur arrived in his
hometown of Koror on the island of Palau, 4500 miles southwest of
Hawaii. Sgt. Obakrairur was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan
before he was able to realize his dreams of becoming a US citizen.
Since September 2001, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
officials have naturalized more than 49,000 members of the U.S. armed
Only legal immigrants are accepted into the US Military.
For more information (and requirements) about USCIS' special services
for the military and their families, please visit
http://www.uscis.gov/military. USCIS has established a toll-free
military help line, 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645)
Examiner's Note: As with their brothers and sisters in arms from
Latin America, many Pacific Islanders have joined the US armed forces
as a way to improve their education, lift themselves out of poverty
and have the potential of becoming American citizens. Guam, the
Northern Marianas, Micronesia and Palau have lost 32 men and women to
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Currently, the republic
of Palau alone has 200 fighting men and women in uniform.