TAMPA, Fla. - At a naturalization ceremony in Tampa Thursday, 65 people from 23 countries - like Kenya, Vietnam, Iraq, Germany, and Columbia - stood united, new citizens of one.
While they worked toward becoming U.S. citizens, five of them also defended the American flag as active-duty members of the U.S. Military
Thursday, their dreams became a reality.
"I think one of the things that got me the most were the ideals. The ideals of what this republic stands for. The ideals of what the military stands for," said U.S. Army Reservist Olardo Lawrence, who came to the U.S. from Jamaica.
Originally from India, Harish Reddy Nukala joined the U.S. Army National Guard to show his loyalty.
"I want to be loyal to this country, which has given me great opportunities," Nukala told FOX 13 News. "It's always been my dream to serve people."
Harish Reddy Nukala, U.S. Army National Guard, from India and now a U.S. citizen
Every year, thousands of green card-holders join the U.S. military. Nukala joined in 2013 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI program.
"It is basically for immigrants who speak different languages. The U.S. Army requires such kind of people," he explained.
Though the program closed in 2016, he's grateful it was his gateway to citizenship.
Tabitha Kamau, of Kenya, hopes to one day become an ambassador.
Being able to realize her dream, Tabitha Kamau became emotional.
"I was thinking, ‘This is it.’ It's a dream come true," said Kamau, who came from Kenya in 2013.
She hopes to one day become an ambassador.
It typically costs $725 to go through the naturalization process, but the fee is waived for active military members.