Pamela Hutchings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office Director Vienna, administers the Oath of Allegiance.
Updated: Thursday, 07 Jul 2011, 2:27 PM MDT
Published : Thursday, 07 Jul 2011, 2:27 PM MDT
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo (KRQE) - Just days after America celebrated her 235th birthday, Pfc. Jose Manuel Valdez was sworn in as a citizen of the U.S. in a ceremony held at the U.S. Embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.
Valdez, an infantryman with the U.S. contingent of Kosovo Forces 14 rotation, had been working on the administrative process to officially become a citizen for about six months and completed the interview and official ceremony while on a year-long deployment to Kosovo.
He is one of about 450 New Mexico National Guard personnel on a year-long deployment to Kosovo.
The process to obtain citizenship for Valdez, who has already been living in the U.S. for more than 22 years, was relatively quick. Valdez said he was relocated to California from his birthplace of Ceballos, Durango, Mexico, when he was just 2 years old. He lived in California for the next 11 years and then moved to Roswell, N.M., where he has spent the past 12 years.
Valdez enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 2007 and has been an infantryman ever since. He said his cousin was in the military and while on a tour to Iraq earned his citizenship.
Learning that soldiers serving in the military, while on deployment, can earn citizenship prompted Valdez’ interest in traveling the same path to naturalization. Valdez is currently serving in C. Company, 1-200th Infantry based in Las Cruces, N.M., as part of KFOR14 in Multinational Battle Group East.
The reasons for Valdez to work toward citizenship were numerous, but a couple stood above the rest. Valdez said he wanted to make sure he prepares for future possibilities and is eligible for as many jobs as possible.
He is looking forward to being able to plan for the future. Right now, he plans to complete this current tour of duty and return home to his civilian job as a supervisor with Peñasco Valley Telecommunications.
“Just the fact of being able to vote, and looking down the road toward jobs in law enforcement or border patrol are the best reasons to get citizenship,” Valdez said. “I’m looking forward to reenlisting, do at least three more years and then we’ll go from there.”
Valdez said he had been preparing for the interview process and the ceremony since he learned the application paperwork was complete. Before the ceremony, Valdez said, “I’m not nervous about the ceremony, I’m actually nervous about the interview process; I don’t know what that’s going to be like.”
With the application complete and the interview process behind him, Valdez stood in front of the American flag ready to take the Oath of Allegiance. MNBG-E Commander, Col. Michael D. Schwartz, and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo Christopher W. Dell assisted Valdez in the final steps to becoming a citizen.
Pamela Hutchings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office Director Vienna, administered the Oath of Allegiance to Valdez who repeated each word. Valdez was presented with a certificate and received congratulatory remarks and well wishes from both Dell and Schwartz.
“We are all glad you took the effort, and took that leap, and did all the things you needed to do to become a citizen of the United States of America,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz then presented Valdez with two commander’s coins; one from pre-mobilization from New Mexico and one from the deployment in Kosovo.
Dell echoed Schwartz remarks and the satisfaction and pleasure those in attendance were feeling on the occasion.
“You had a choice, a choice that you exercised to become an American,” said Dell. “We are all extremely proud of you; proud of your service, grateful for it, and very simply proud to call you an American.”
Finally, Valdez full of conviction and pride, led his fellow soldiers in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. His platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Luis R. Sandoval, summed up the occasion with a few words.
“Every time you have somebody that looks for citizenship, especially someone who’s been in the U.S. for his whole life, it’s just something special,” said Sandoval. “Especially with him being a soldier and serving his country, it’s just a perk for him.
"He’s already an American; he’s lived his whole life in the U.S. and he’s serving his country and now he can voice his opinion by voting. One more great American soldier.”