Gina Harkins, Marine Corps Times
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — Ten young men became American citizens on the same day they were presented to their families as Marines, part of a new program that allows recruits to go through the naturalization process at the end of boot camp.
Members of Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, participated in the Thursday ceremony that preceded Friday's boot camp graduation here.
Ten of the new Marines decided to join the Corps before they officially were considered Americans. But that changed as they stood in front of the rest of the battalion and their families, raised their right hands and took the Oath of Allegiance to become citizens of the country they've sworn to protect.
The 10 Marines were born in different countries.
Pvt. Giuseppe Raccuglia, 18, was born in Italy and came to the United States as a toddler. His family moved here for better opportunities, said his mother, Maria DiBacco. They traveled from Hartford, Conn., to see Raccuglia graduate and watched him become a Marine and an American.
"I have been crying since Monday," Raccuglia's mom said. "It is all very emotional."
Raccuglia, who picked up the crash, fire and rescue military occupational specialty during boot camp, said he wanted to become a Marine so he could give back to the country that took in his family.
"We were all part of something really special," he said of himself and the other nine Marines who took the oath. "Not only did we become Marines today, but citizens of a great country."
Pvt. Abraham Ostos Mendoza, 18, was born in Peru and moved to the U.S. about six years ago. He said he joined the Marine Corps to become part of the nation's finest fighting force.
"I was nervous," he said. "Standing out there becoming a Marine and a citizen at the same time, right after boot camp and the Crucible — it's just a lot." The Crucible is the final test in recruit training.
He said it was difficult at times to follow what his boot-camp drill instructors were saying because they speak so quickly and English is his second language. He now will move toward his military occupational specialty, working construction, and said becoming a Marine will change the way he acts every day.
The remaining eight Marines were from Bhutan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.
The battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Joseph Jones, welcomed them not only into the Marine Corps, but "into the most diverse and greatest nation on Earth."
The naturalization program is an expansion of the law that President George W. Bush authorized following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, that allows noncitizens serving in the armed forces to immediately file for citizenship.
In 2009, the Army established a program giving immigrants the ability to become citizens when they graduate from basic training, and the Navy joined the initiative in 2010.
Immigrants serving in the Air Force, Coast Guard, certain parts of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve also are eligible for expedited citizenship, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
MAP: Marines who became U.S. citizens at end of boot camp came from 10 countries.
New immigration policy I guess? The best of both worlds - they get their citizenship, and we get more cannon fodder.