CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan --
Approximately 75 Okinawa-based service members and family members realized their dreams of becoming American citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Camp Foster theater April 22.
The troops hailed from all four services and represented 37 countries of origin, including Bosnia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Poland, Japan, Republic of the Philippines, South Korea and Zimbabwe. The oldest candidate was 37 years old and the youngest was 7.
Each new American traveled a different path to citizenship.
The journey for Lance Cpl. Oscar Archaga, 21, began in La Ceiba, Honduras. The promotions and awards clerk with the Command Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, remembers life in his native country well. In particular, he remembers attending the Carnival de la Amistad, which means carnival of friendship. The carnival is held every year, and thousands of visitors from all over the world attend.
“The carnival is celebrated in a main street that is over seven miles long and is filled with people, food and bright colors, celebrating something dear to our people—friendship,” said Archaga.
However, the memories of a difficult life in Honduras are also ever present.
“My family was considered middle class, but that didn’t exclude us from what was happening,” said Archaga. “La Ceiba is known for having friendly people, but there’s still a high amount of violence in the country.”
Archaga dreamed of playing soccer in his country’s major leagues. He got close. He became a player on a minor league team, but he gave up the position to come to the U.S.
He said that the decisions he made in life, including joining the military and later becoming a citizen, were made for his family.
“My family has done a lot for me, and I just wanted to be able to help them,” he said. “My mother has always been there for me, and I wanted to inspire my brothers.”
Archaga saw joining the military as an opportunity to help his family and make them proud, he said. After looking at other military services, Archaga knew he wanted to be part of the best, the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps recruiters wearing dress blues caught his attention, one of whom was of Hispanic descent. This particular recruiter helped to cement his decision to join the Corps, he said.
“My family was really proud of me. On graduation day on Parris Island, (South Carolina), they said I was a different person,” Archaga said. “My mother was so proud of me … I knew I made the right decision with my life.”
Now that Archaga is a U.S. citizen, he has gained some new rights, he said. He can vote and obtain a higher security clearance, which will allow him more opportunities to deploy and take on higher billets in his occupation. He also plans to marry once things settle down in his life.
“Being a citizen feels great,” he added. “I feel more freedom, and it’s just an awesome feeling that now I’m fully committed to the greatest country and finest organization in the world, the Marine Corps.”