DLA Aviation officer welcomes new citizens during naturalization ceremony at Fort Lee

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Army Maj. Alex Shimabukuro stood before 28 service members from 18 countries May 30 as they joined the latest ranks of U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony held at Fort Lee, Virginia’s Soldier Support Center.

Army Lt. Col. Brian Neill, commander, 266th Quartermaster Battalion sponsors the twice monthly ceremony and invited Shimabukuro to be the guest speak for the event.

Shimabukuro, who is currently serving as DLA Aviation’s Army Customer Facing Division’s operations officer, said everyone being naturalized today has a story to share about the challenges they faced getting here.  

Shimabukuro said he was 20 when he joined the military and the service gave him structure and a foundation.  He was serving in the Air Force as an airman first class when he became a naturalized citizen 22 years ago in a Jacksonville, Florida ceremony.

“Though you become U.S. citizens today, you will never forget your culture and you bring that with you,” he said. “My Peruvian and Japanese heritage ties me to what is great about America and your culture also ties you to the fiber of America. We are a vibrant nation filled with diversity from various cultural backgrounds.”

Shimaburkuro told America’s newest citizens that this country is truly the land of opportunities.  “Dream, set goals, make action plans,” he said.  “Seek and use educational benefits that are available to you, such as tuition assistance or the G.I. Bill to get your bachelor’s degree.”  He encouraged service members to be proficient on their military occupational specialties and learn how the other MOS specialties support the mission’s warfighting efforts.

“As naturalized citizens, more opportunities will open for you to work at higher organizational levels and with joint services,” he said. “Congratulations, I’m so proud of all of you.”

Neill closed the ceremony by congratulating and putting naturalization into perspective for the new citizens.

“You all can vote now, just like me; run for elected office, just like me; become officers in the Army; and your children and your children’s children can all do this,” he said.  “When you look at what the next step is, strategically think about your next step.”

He told ceremony participants, they bring their cultures here from thousands of miles away and make the U. S. a better place.  He also said the military services want to help them make it a better place.

“What do you want the Army to give to you, an education, a career, a stepping stone to your business, a stepping stone to your family coming here?” he asked. “Think about how you can improve and make a better life for yourself.  On behalf of myself, the battalion, the Army and the United States government, welcome to the United States and I hope you have a long and happy life.”  

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, military members and certain veterans may be eligible for naturalization through military service under Section 328, 329 or 329A of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  For eligibility requirements, visit their website.