“This is a land of opportunity,” said Dr. Emilio T. Gonzalez, director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, during a U.S. military naturalization ceremony at the Pentagon April 14, where several servicemembers earned their American citizenship.
Cpl. Victor Alfonso Alejandretapia, a personnel clerk with Headquarters and Service Company, Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, said he took advantage of the opportunity offered in America, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004.
“I am the first one in my family to be in the American military,” Alejandretapia said. “I wanted to join the military, and I wanted to join the best.”
Alejandretapia joined the Marine Corps in 2004, but he didn’t get the job he wanted because he didn’t have his U.S. citizenship. Instead of joining the military intelligence community as he initially intended, Alejandretapia became a personnel clerk. After nearly four years of active duty service in the Marine Corps, Alejandretapia has his U.S. citizenship and is applying for a lateral move into military intelligence.
“It feels good,” said Alejandretapia. “Now, I have more opportunities, and it’s another accomplishment in my books.”
Throughout the ceremony, several famous immigrants, like Gonzalez offered their words of inspiration to the new American citizens.
Many immigrants have helped make America a beacon of hope, said Air Force Maj. Gen. James W. Graves, assistant chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for reserve matters. Immigrants will help carry freedom’s torch forever, and Alejandretapia said he could understand his part in carrying on America’s freedoms.
“Now that I am a citizen, I still love my background and heritage, but I also have to uphold America’s ideals being a Mexican American,” Alejandretapia said. “I’m going to help carry on American traditions and standards.”
Alejandretapia is now a Mexican American, serving in the Marine Corps, taking advantage of the possibilities America offers, where diversity is welcome.
“It’s a land where you’re measured by what you can be, not what family you came from, or what country you came from, or what religion you practice,” Gonzalez explained. “Immigrants have had an incredible lasting and positive experience in the armed forces. More than 700 immigrants have earned the Medal of Honor in the United States.”
Alejandretapia said joining the military without his American citizenship “wasn’t a big deal”, but it was to one American who attended the ceremony to see some of America’s newest citizens.
“What is remarkable about the people here, the nation’s newest citizens, you volunteered to serve your nation in a most demanding occupation and during one of the nation’s most demanding periods in the nation’s recent history,” said Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Alejandretapia has had dreams of being a Marine for most of his life.
“When I was nine years old, I saw the commercial with the Marines in dress blue uniforms. I told my mom, ‘I am going to do that one day’, and here I am,” Alejandretapia said.
Sometimes called the “salad bowl”, America has welcomed people from many different countries, races and religions. These people keep their own individuality, yet they add to the unique nature and personality of America.
Alejandretapia is one Mexican American who has joined the ranks of those who transform American Society into a multicultural montage of traditions.