Marine Corps base Quantico -- Four Marines were among the group of 26 candidates from 20 different countries to officially become American citizens during Monday’s naturalization ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Leon Rodriguez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented each of the candidates for naturalization before a large crowd of family and friends.
The fact that the ceremony fell on the 239th birthday of the Marine Corps and on the eve of Veterans Day was an added bonus, said Sgt. Gustavo Antonio Arroliga-Lopez, Marine recruiter in Woodbridge.
“It means a lot to me because not only am I becoming a U.S. citizen, but also because it’s the birthday of the Marine Corps,” he said. “That makes it so much more special.”
As part of the conditions required for citizenship, candidates were tested on their ability to speak and write English, as well their knowledge of American history and government.
The ceremony, which is believed to be the first of its kind at the NMMC, was one of the nearly 40 the USCIS is holding for service members, military spouses and veterans across the country from Nov. 7-14 to welcome 3,000 new citizens.
Since September 2002, USCIS has naturalized more than 102,000 service members, including individuals serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, Japan and elsewhere, according to the organization’s website.
“So many journeys here today,” said Rodriguez, who referred to his own parents immigrating to America from Cuba in 1961, “but we are all united in a belief in America and a commitment to service.”
Arroliga-Lopez, a 31-year-old native of Nicaragua, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007 and has faithfully served America in Afghanistan, Germany and Malaysia among other places.
“This nation has given me so much,” said Arroliga-Lopez, who was joined by his wife, mother and several of his fellow Marine recruiters. “It was the least could do.”
Cpl. Jose Arroyo, administrator, Weapons Training Battalion, echoed similar thoughts about his love for America and the debt he owes her after coming here from his native Costa Rica in 1997.
“This really means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s the next step in my career and it’s a way that I could give back to the United States for all it’s done for me.”