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New citizens celebrate after life-changing ceremony

By Brenton Awa
Published On: Jul 03 2013 03:39:00 PM HST

About 100 people from 27 different countries became U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

HONOLULU -

Ceremonies around the world are changing people's lives, and one of those events happened at Pearl Harbor Wednesday.

As the nation gets ready to celebrate its 237th birthday, this Fourth of July will be remembered as a first for our new neighbors.

"I can't say a word that could explain my whole feelings right now, words can't explain it," says Gachau Gathura, a former resident of Kenya.

Gathura is now an American citizen. He moved to the U.S five years ago, knowing just one thing about this country. It's the land of opportunity, something he says lacked in Kenya.

While Gathura repeated the naturalization oath Wednesday, the Schofield soldier has already been protecting the flag.

"This just pushes me to become better, a better person in the military, that's my whole goal," says Gathura.

About 100 others from 27 different countries took the citizenship oath Wednesday. Former Canada resident Tera Arnold is carrying a baby and says the timing is perfect.

"It's just an extra special honor to get to be an actual citizen on the Fourth of July, we can celebrate a lot more now," says Arnold.

But becoming a citizen isn't as easy as repeating an oath. Depending on their situation, people must first get a green card, spend three to five years as a resident and pass proficiency tests.

It took Fausto Rungduen 14 years to get to this day. The 74-year-old from the Philippines doesn't speak English well and struggled along the way, but he still took the risk of leaving his country, and it paid off.

"It's going to be more of a celebration this year because my mom is a citizen now, everybody in the family is a citizen, so now we just feel like we belong," says Karen Rungduen, daughter of Fausto Rungduen.

Rungduen's family members are proud of their father. Others describe people like him in a different way.

"They're brave, we're all brave," says Gathura.

Wednesday's ceremony was part of the USCIS' annual celebration of Independence Day. More than 7,800 people will become citizens at over 100 ceremonies around the world during the first week in July.

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