On Flag Day at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, before a crowd of students, family members and journalists, 20 people waited patiently. Dressed in their best clothes, they displayed respect for the step they were about to take, ready to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”
Kelvin A. Magana, a retired Army sergeant who served in Iraq and South Korea, knows that responsibility. He came to the United States as a child, following his parents, who fled El Salvador during the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
U.S. citizenship, Magana said, means “the freedom to say whatever we feel like and not be afraid of any consequence. . . . It’s very important that people understand the freedom we have here. Now I’m able to treasure the freedom I have because I went through all that.”
Hanlin C. Edwin, a sailor from Micronesia who trained as an electrician, plans “to live here forever.”
Deborah Vives Marquez, a vivacious Air Force senior airman from Mexico, wants to reenlist and make the Air Force her career, which requires citizenship. “I like this country, and I really do like the American way, the way they think — they like to progress, they like to get involved,” she said.
Then the ceremony started, with the bearing of the colors, the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and short speeches. They heard U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas describe how raising the flag every morning raises the hopes of people all over the world. They listened to an immigrant from a previous generation,Gerda Weissmann Klein, speak of the moment when she met the U.S. soldier who liberated her from a Nazi work camp and restored her humanity.
KOLN reports on a similar ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska: