Nearly 100 people celebrate becoming new Americans on Citizenship Day

Published On: Sep 17 2013 05:09:00 PM HST

Ninety-seven new Americans were welcomed into citizenship at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday in celebration of Citizenship Day. The holiday recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution more than 200 years ago.

Hawaii's new residents shared their excitement after they made an oath and pledge to officially become United States citizens.

"It feels great. I am so happy," said Jansen Tesoro.

Smiles were all around as the new citizens now have that one common bond despite their vastly different backgrounds. The citizens represented 28 different countries, one-third that came from the Philippines. One of them is Seaman Mario Alvarez Mendoza who joined the Navy on the 11th Anniversary of Sept. 11.

"It's something I've always wanted to do, serve in the military as well. I always felt like I was an American, but just not a citizen," said Seaman Mendoza.

Now he shows off his certificate because he can proudly call himself one. This Navy man's patriotism and service has inspired his wife to one day take the citizenship test as well.

"I look up to him because some day I want to be a citizen too. I guess he's going to push me to do it," said Regina Alvarez.

What made the ceremony unique was not just the people, but the location. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service hosted the celebration on the USS Missouri, the ship where World War II came to an end.

"The Instrument of Surrender was signed on board this deck right here, the very Battleship Missouri or what we affectionately call her, the Mighty Mo," said Rear Adm. Richard Williams Jr. of the United States Navy.

"Where I am from, you learn that actually about World War II, how the U.S. got involved in the War and what happened here. Being able to witness and be on ship and what had happened on this ship is really special," said Oroj Gaoue, originally from West Africa.

In order for these 97 people to become American citizens, they had to file an application, pass a background check test, go through an interview and pass the citizenship test. The naturalization ceremony now marks the celebration and end of that process.


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