By Airman 1st Class Luis Loza Gutierrez, Public Affairs
/ Published August 09, 2007
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Sometime in late September of this year, while other people go about their normal business, a special moment in my life will take place. God willing, after more than 20 years of living in this country, I will finally be able to respond, "Yes, I am," the next time someone asks me "Are you a United States citizen?"
I can already imagine the various questions some people will ask me after the oath ceremony.
Questions such as, 'What did you think about the ceremony?' 'What country are you a former citizen of?' 'Do you feel like crying, and how does it feel to be a U.S. citizen?'
I will probably respond with a funny remark like, "I feel the same, just with a great sense of relief that I can't be deported now--you're stuck with me."
Those who have witnessed my sense of humor and who know me in person will laugh, or at least I hope they will. After all, it is going to be a special day in my life. It's more important than any of my previous 25 birthdays, and it's not everyday I get a chance to become a U.S. citizen.
But no matter how funny my words may sound, those that have allowed me to share the details about my journey to become a U.S. citizen will know that I will surely be both honored and proud, the same way my family, friends and co-workers know I am honored and proud to serve as an Airmen in the greatest Air Force the world has ever known.
I will probably answer other citizenship-related questions, but perhaps the most profound question a person will be able to ask me is--"Why?" "Why did you want to become a U.S. citizen?"
Because the people I care about the most are here. Because it's one step closer to having the opportunity to deploy. Because this is my home; I was raised here and went to school here. All these answers are true, and I assume any one of them would satisfy people's curiosity.
However, I think the best answer I can provide someone is by asking a question myself.
This is, after all, the greatest country in the world. This is what's true for me, and those who beg to differ--I would politely ask to look above the collars of those of us in uniform, who serve and or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The faces of those I have the privilege to call my fellow brothers and sisters in arms are all the evidence people will need to see and understand why this country is so great.
People from almost every race, denomination and culture can be found in this country. Their physical presence here, whether it be a product of them being a descendant of immigrants who came here generations ago or not, is nevertheless a testament to the greatness of this nation.
The American colonists fought the British before the U.S. officially existed. Countless lives have been sacrificed defending it, and countless others continue to make similar sacrifices today.
Throughout all this time people have been coming to this country, raising children, building communities, fighting wars and thanking God that such a place exists, because the bottom line is just like comedian Carlos Mencia said: "We all want more" (more liberty, more wealth, more happiness, more prosperity) The pilgrims wanted it then and people still want it now.
I don't want to make this sound like a commentary on immigration. I'm simply trying to illustrate a point. Nor am I saying my journey to become a U.S. citizen was a great odyssey.
I did not have to leave my loved ones, cross a dessert or swim to get here. My presence here was a result of my mother's marriage to my stepfather when I was less than 6-years-old, but I've experienced my share of trials and tribulations.
I have been discriminated against, even by other Latinos, which helped me empathize with European immigrants (like the Irish and Italians, who where strongly discriminated by people of the same race, especially in large cities between the late 1800s and early decades of the 20th century).
I also want to make clear that my view on the greatness of the United States is not me saying that other countries aren't great; I'm just saying that hands-down the U.S.A. is the best.
Nor am I saying that I'm not proud of my roots. My mother taught me to be proud of my heritage and where I came from. However, where one is born, and where one claims as there home or where they are from are not always the same. Plenty of military brats know what I mean.
I am part Mexican Indian, French and Spanish. I was born in the state of Jalisco, where tequila, mariachi music and charros originated. I'm Roman Catholic, I love rice and beans and I know the difference between Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican food. I've worked in the farm fields and I also know that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's independence day.
I was raised next to corn and cotton fields. My favorite sport is football, and I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. I know the U.S. Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation as the supreme law of the land.
I also know that my history teacher wasn't referring to the New Adventures of Superman when the class topic was Lewis and Clark, and I still think it's sad that I've only met seven women in my life who could tell me who Susan B. Anthony was and how she changed American history.
I know that at the time of this great nation's birth-- there was an emperor in China, a shogun in Japan, a czar in Russia and a king in France, and today none of that is true, but the Republic of the United States of America still stands and I truly believe "God shed his Grace on thee."
Some of you may think my comments sound very cocky, but that's mainly because I take great pride in who I am and many of the things I do, especially as an Airman.
So if anyone asks me after September why I'm so proud, I'll probably respond by saying, "Why not? I just became a citizen of the greatest country in the world."