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Francisco Diaz: A New American Takes Flight
Francisco Diaz is fascinated by stuff that flies. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Diaz perfected his English reading aviation books. A full-time flight instructor at Florida’s Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Diaz will earn a Master’s degree in aeronautics this year.
Yesterday, Diaz joined 100 others in reciting the Oath of Allegiance, becoming U.S. citizens in the shadow of historic NASA rockets at Kennedy Space Center, just 60 miles from the place he has called home for the last four years.
"For a pilot, Kennedy Space Center is like a dream place," Diaz said. "It's like Disneyland for us."
Diaz says he owes everything to his dad, who petitioned on his behalf in 2004 to come to the U.S. to train to become a pilot. A restaurateur, Diaz's father put three kids through college even after a debilitating illness left him wheelchair-bound.
Though he’s experienced six Fourths of July in the U.S., Diaz says this year's celebration takes on a whole new meaning. A spirit of independence, he says, is "the ability and the resources to follow your dreams."
It's exactly that spirit that motivates Diaz to pursue his dream of flying fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force. Next week, he plans to take his Certificate of Citizenship to the local Air Force recruiter’s office and sign up for Officer Candidate School, a huge step toward realizing that dream. Diaz joined ROTC as a cross-town cadet while attending community college in New York and was actively involved in the program until he completed his studies at Embry Riddle.
Diaz applied for naturalization the day he became eligible (four years and nine months after establishing permanent residence). Becoming a U.S. citizen is the key to a future career as a military pilot. Given the choice between naturalizing last week at the local USCIS office or waiting to participate in today’s event, he says, was a no-brainer.
"Kennedy Space Center represents the dreams of the country. It’s where the space program was born," said Diaz. "It's the most special place to have the ceremony."