18 Marines become U.S. citizens aboard Battleship North Carolina

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — It was a very special day for some members of the U.S. Marine Corps., a day they’ll never forget.

As the American flag waved in the breeze in front of the Battleship North Carolina, the largest naturalization ceremony was conducted by an infantry battalion in Marine Corps. history took place on the deck.

Lt. Derek Vande Slunt from the U.S. Navy addressed the Marines who took part in a naturalization ceremony on Friday.

“We give thanks for these 18 Marines who have dedicated themselves to serving, protecting our nation as Marines,” said Vande Slunt.

Eighteen members stationed at Camp Lejeune – traveled to Wilmington to swear allegiance to the United States while standing aboard the World War II Battleship.

According to 1st Battalion 8th Marines Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Will Kerrigan, once enlisted becoming a United States citizen is a speedy process.

“From when we get you to the battalion, five weeks, the average of when we can make you an American citizen,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

The Honorable Richard E. Myers II, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina administered the oath to those Marines who represented 14 countries from five continents.

PFC. Christian Mejia and Lance CPL. Kevin Lee are two of the 18 Marines who took part in the ceremony.

“I actually got my citizenship, before a year I joined,” said Mejia. “So, now I’m actually really happy because being part of America.”

“It felt amazing, and not everyone gets this opportunity to be a U.S. citizen,” said Lee. “So I’m really stoked about it.”

Family members were also in attendance, proud of their marines.

Alex Rodriguez traveled to Wilmington to witness the momentous event with her family, her brother Aaron Rodriguez is now a U.S. citizen.
“I am so proud of him,” said Alex Rodriguez.  “That he made it this far.”

“I feel super excited,” said Aaron Rodriguez. “I feel super thankful, being part of America.”

CPL. Maikel Merino Diaz felt nostalgic and reminisced about the day he took the oath about a year ago.

“I believe it’s really beautiful to see them going through the process, a bit speedier than some of us, and that makes us happy,” said Merino Diaz.

Lance CPL. Bora Uslay was still happy for his fellow Marines despite having to wait for paperwork to go through, so he too can become a citizen of the country he is fighting for.

“It wasn’t done in time for the ceremony,” said Uslay, “So, hopefully, I should be getting my citizenship next week.”

According to U.S. Marine Corps. 1st Lt. Connor Flynn, those enlisted accomplished so much, and deserve the privilege of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

“We feel that they’ve more than earned the title of U.S. citizen, and we picked USS North Carolina as a great place to do that for our Marines,” said Flynn.

The ceremony happened on a ship that earned 15 battle stars and provided a patriotic backdrop for the newest citizens who have served and continue to serve our country.

Those enlisted in the military and are U.S. citizens become eligible for security clearances, as well as military occupational specialty opportunities, which include the ability to pursue commissioning as an officer.

More information on enlisting in the Marine Corps. can be found here, and information on the pathway to citizenship once a member of the military can be found here.

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