157 naturalized at Garden of Gods center
A total of 157 legal immigrants from 57 countries - including 34 members of the United States military - became citizens in a
colorful outdoor ceremony at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center Aug. 30.
“This is extremely important,” said Congress-man Joel Hefley, whose district includes the Pikes Peak region. Speaking to those being naturalized, he said, “You're making a commitment to this country and leaving your own country behind. We expect your loyalty and your love.”
To the new military citizens, Hefley said, “You've showed your commitment. We're proud of you.”
Other speakers included top dignitaries from the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson, as well as Mario Ortiz, district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and Chief Robert Talltree of the Chippewa Tribe (who lives locally).
Talltree, dressed in full Indian regalia, told the new citizens, “You are welcome,” but also advised them not to forget their old- country traditions.
A posthumous citizenship was awarded to Marine Lance Corporal Evenor Herrera, who died in Iraq last month. His parents, David and Blanca Stibbs of Avon, accepted in his behalf.
An executive order in 2002 made all non-naturalized military personnel eligible to become citizens, meaning they no longer have to wait five years after becoming permanent U.S. residents (as civilians still must do).
With the Kissing Camels rock formation for a backdrop, the event under cloudless skies included the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard and singing by a military group called Harmony in Motion. Several hundred people were in attendance.
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