NEW YORK CITY --
On America’s birthday, seven service memberMs took the Oath of Citizenship under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4th.
A Marine, sailor and five soldiers stood on stage and pledged their allegiance to the United States of America, a country they had sworn to defend years earlier.
Sgt. Nilton Arrubla Torres, 1st Marine Corps Recruiting District, administrative clerk, the lone Marine of the group to become citizens, had put off the overwhelming amount of citizenship paperwork for the better part of his six years as a Marine.
“I wanted to vote, so I thought I should become a citizen,” he explained. “I’m fighting for this country so I might as well do it,” Arrubla Torres explained before the ceremony. “I would start to do it but then I would see all the paperwork, the forms, and I would think… not right now.”
As a Marine, his citizenship paperwork would be expedited no matter the occasion, a nod to his chosen profession, but being selected for the 4th of July ceremony streamlined the process even more.
“I put the papers in about a month and a half ago, and it usually takes about six months. But because of this special event, here I am,” said Arrubla Torres. “This is the place where most people, when they were coming to the United States a long time ago, it’s the first thing they were seeing and here I am.”
Hours after their naturalization ceremony, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Sen. Bob Menendez, Congressmen Anthony Weiner, representing Brooklyn, N.Y., and Gregory Meeks, representing Jamaica, N.Y., New York Gov. David Paterson, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Sen., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, famed documentarian Ken Burns and other dignitaries cut the red tape at the base of the Statue of Liberty, officially opening the crown to visitors for the first time since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Before the ribbon cutting ceremony Burns remarked that this event would stand as a symbol, “to those who perpetrated those acts and those who aimed to limit our freedoms. Once again we will have a chance to get inside her head.”
With the musical accompaniment of the Albany Ga., Marine Corps Band, Burns closed the ceremony and announced that this ceremony represents a milestone in American history.
“Now as we gather here on this 232nd Independence Day, we celebrate a new day for the Statue of Liberty and a new era for America.”
Earlier that day, the seven service member received a special tour of the Statue including the crown, a sneak peak at an American liberty soon to be restored. Arrubla Torres emigrated from Medellin, Colombia in 1998 and works near New York City had never visited the statue. Climbing the tight spiral of more than 200 stairs to reach the crown helped correct a myth he was told when he first arrived in the country.
“I was told there was a restaurant at the crown, but then on July 4th I found out there was space for no more than ten people. Going up the stairs is the best part because every so often you would think you were already at the top just to find out you had to keep pushing more,” he said.
While the opening of the crown drew crowds and put the event on a national stage, each politician joined in a chorus of support for the new citizens.
“Ceremonies like this can’t help but strike you on so many levels,” said Jane Holl Lute, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary and a retired Army major.
“For me personally because my grandparents came here as immigrants, as a soldier I’m so very proud of what these young men have done today and what they represent in service to their country before their country ever had to ask. It’s extremely moving”