NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In recognition of Veterans Day on Thursday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be honoring veterans who served and continue to serve our country at its naturalization ceremonies.
One of the first took place Monday morning in Lower Manhattan, CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported.READ MORE: Veterans Day: Silver Star Returned 76 Years Later To Family Of Fallen Hero Soldier From New York Who Tried To Save Others
The American flag, a striking beacon of freedom, flew gently in the breeze of a pristine fall day. While inside the Halls of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, there was a sense of pride surging as New Yorkers took the Oath of Allegiance.
Eighty took the oath, including 22 members of the military, both veterans and active duty, said Timothy Houghton, USCIS district director for New York.
“These men and women who are candidates for naturalization, they chose to serve in this country before they became a citizen. They would be willing to give up their life for this great country,” Houghton said. “It is our greatest honor to welcome them as new citizens of the United States of America.”
Amongst our newest Americans are New York Army National Guardsmen Pvt. First Class Mervin Lawrence and Pvt. First Class Robert Torivio.
“It felt surreal. Finally, I’m here,” Torivio said.
“You really feel that goosebumps type of feeling, butterflies,” Lawrence added.
Lawrence moved to the U.S. from Guyana two years ago for opportunity and joined the Army National Guard shortly after.
“Dream come true. Since then, no regrets,” Lawrence said.
He shared that applying for citizenship seemed the natural next step for him.READ MORE: New York City Veterans Day Parade Returns In-Person For 1st Time In 2 Years
“You get a greater sense of pride when you are serving for the country you are a citizen of,” Lawrence said.
Torivio moved to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic with his mom at just 12 years old.
“I was very hesitant to come to the U.S. at first. She brought me here to study,” Torivio said.
Culture shock set in at first. Torivio said he didn’t speak English. But now he has a different take.
“Moving here and joining the Army has opened up so many opportunities for me,” Torivio said.
And becoming a citizen means more freedom for the 19-year-old.
“Just a few months I tried to go to Mexico with a Dominican passport and got rejected,” Torivio said.
As for what’s next for our newest citizens, Torivio said maybe college or the NYPD. As for Lawrence, a newlywed, he said he’s focused on bringing his new bride home.
“I’ve been praying day and night, so hopefully my dreams come true,” Lawrence said.MORE NEWS: Crowd Honors Heroes At Veterans Day Ceremony In Montville, New Jersey
Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary John K. Tien administered the Oath of Allegiance. He, too, is a veteran, a retired Army colonel and a West Point graduate. Our 80 newest citizens hail from 37 different countries around the globe.