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88 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines Naturalized in Kandahar, Afghanistan

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The air is heavy with dust in Kandahar. A thick layer coats everything in sight and casts an eerie haze over both the sun by day and street lights by night. When the day's heat mixes with that dust, it makes for an oppressive, dusk-like combination. Yet here, for the best part of the last week, a team of USCIS employees from the Bangkok District have lived among the troops in order to conduct naturalization interviews, fulfilling the citizenship dreams of dozens of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

On Friday, October 1, 2010, during an early morning naturalization ceremony at Kandahar Air Field, 88 men and women from 37 countries - each with a unique, inspiring story - became America's newest citizens.

Three newly naturalized soldiers

Those stories include three soldiers born in Vietnam. Lifelong friends, they grew up together in Orange County, Calif., joined the Army, deployed to Iraq and independently filed for citizenship. Neither of the three knew their friends would naturalize in Kandahar until they found each other’s name on the ceremony list.

A group of soldiers takes the Oath of Allegiance

For another soldier, his citizenship journey ended in Afghanistan five days after his wife - also a solider - became a citizen during a Fort Bliss, Texas naturalization ceremony. From Afghanistan to Iraq and Korea to Honduras, USCIS employees volunteer to naturalize eligible members of the military where they serve. In a rare twist, the Kandahar ceremony included new citizens from all four branches of the military - each serving their adopted country in Afghanistan. To a person, the three member USCIS team in Kandahar was happy to "rough it" in the field for a few days in order to naturalize American service members serving in harm's way, defending rights and freedoms they had yet to secure for themselves and their families.