On Friday, February 27, I had the distinct privilege of participating in a Naturalization Ceremony at the Washington District Office in Fairfax, Va. Among the ceremony's 30 candidates was a young man with an inspiring story that reminds us of the importance of our work at USCIS and the priceless value of the life and liberties we cherish as Americans.
Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gasca, a native of Mexico, served in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. Lance Corporal Gasca lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device during combat operations last September. He's currently undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he is learning to walk once again.
When Lance Corporal Gasca, with his wife and young son by his side, raised his right hand to take the Oath of Allegiance, he joined a long line of naturalized American heroes who served and sacrificed on behalf of our nation before becoming American citizens. There are few words I can use to describe the overwhelming sense of appreciation and admiration I have for men and women like Lance Corporal Gasca. As an agency, we best express that gratitude by completing military naturalization cases as quickly as possible.
USCIS employees who work with immigrant service members consider this responsibility both a privilege and an honor. In partnership with the Department of Defense, we do all we can to ensure that as many military applications as possible are processed and completed before these brave men and women are deployed to combat zones overseas.
In total, USCIS naturalized more than one million citizens during fiscal year 2008 and we've naturalized more than 45,000 U.S. service members since September 2001. Each new American has made a personal sacrifice to become part of our American fabric. None, however, have made more striking sacrifices than Jose Gasca and his fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who voluntarily took up arms to defend rights and liberties they had yet to secure for themselves or their families.
Mike Aytes, Acting Deputy Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services