At a military naturalization ceremony at Fort Bragg yesterday, 41 men and women who came from 26 different countries on five continents became American citizens. As Secretary Gates pointed out they all have served and sacrificed for this country even before it officially was their country.
Secretary Gates speaking at the ceremony says:
It is one of the true glories of our country that, when it comes to Americanness, you don’t have to be a descendant of the Founders or the colonists who came over on the Mayflower. What counts is whether you believe in America’s ideals, follow her laws, and pitch in for the common good. Abraham Lincoln said that immigrants to the United States can read the phrase “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence and “feel that . . . they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh,” of the men who [signed] that Declaration.
But it is not just that you are as American as anyone, from this moment forward. It is not just that you’ve passed an exam on the United States government and its laws. Not just your knowledge and your beliefs but it is your actions – your willingness to put yourself in harm’s way for the rest of us – earn you the approval, and the sincere admiration, of all Americans, your fellow citizens.
Throughout U.S. history, new citizens in every walk of life have made America a better place. As soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, you give what is invaluable: your skills, your talent, and your courage. Since September 11, 2001, nearly 43,000 men and women have become citizens while wearing the uniform of the United States military. More than a hundred have fallen in defense of their new country.
This nation that welcomes you with warmth and with pride is very much in your debt, because you have shown your love for this country in the most honorable way possible. So on behalf of the Department of Defense, I thank you for defending the people of the United States – your people – and the “self-evident truths” which they hold so dear.