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Story by: CPT Al Phillips - 138th Public Affairs Detachment
Dated: Thu, Jul 5, 2012
WASHINGTON (07/05/2012)(readMedia)-- Three New York National Guard Soldiers celebrated the nation’s birthday with President Barack Obama as American citizens for the first time following their naturalization ceremony at the White House.
The White House invited Staff Sgt. Daniel Geneta II of the 719th Transportation Company, Spc. Alla Ausheva of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion and Pvt. Fatima Rivera Fuentes of the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion in late June to recite their oath of citizenship with the President, administered by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
This was the third time President Obama hosted a naturalization ceremony and told the audience, which included the families and friends of the service members taking the oath of citizenship, that it is one of his favorite things to do.
"It brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas," Obama said. "All of you did something profound: You chose to serve. You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own. You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July - duty, responsibility and patriotism," the President added.
The New York National Guard Soldiers were among 25 military members who became full-fledged Americans at the ceremony, earning it through a program started after 9/11 that fast-tracks naturalization in the military.
"It was awesome. I met the president. He’s just awesome. I’m so happy," Ausheva said. "I just feel everything has happened so fast but I am definitely on the right track and I am going to remember this day and be a better soldier because I want to be useful," she added.
Ausheva, born in Russia, joined the New York Army National Guard in July 2011, just months after arriving from overseas. She serves as a maintenance technician in Company G of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion. The unit supports the 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery. She lives in Bayside, N.Y.
"I can’t even describe it. It was so unreal and I was so taken aback. This was the best honor because I always wanted to serve and to be able to meet the President and have the Commander-in-Chief shake my hand is huge and a dream fulfilled," Geneta said.
Staff Sgt. Geneta, born in the Philippines, came to the United States in August 1994. Geneta joined the New York Army National Guard in 2006 because of the events of September 11, 2001. He is a squad leader in the 719th Transportation Company and in civilian life works as an account executive at Urban Associates, a New York City real estate company. He lives in Briarwood, N.Y.
"This was truly just an amazing feeling to be at the White House and another step forward in giving me an opportunity to express thanks to the country that has given me so much so I could serve and give back," Fuentes said.
Fuentes, born in El Salvador, joined the New York Army National Guard in 2009 and has served as an aviation electronics technician working on UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. Fuentes came to the United States in 1999. She lives in Valley Stream, N.Y.
"With this ceremony today -- and ceremonies like it across our country -- we affirm another truth: Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe," the President said.