LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
President Obama is marking this 4th of July holiday with a barbecue for military families. That happens this evening on the south lawn of the White House. This morning, the president speaks at a ceremony at the White House where active duty service members become U.S. citizens.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And in Afghanistan today, there are 44 soldiers and marines celebrating their first 4th of July as Americans. These men and women participated in a naturalization ceremony at Kandahar Air Field last week. NPR's Sean Carberry was there and sent us this postcard.
SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: As the morning sun beats down on the desert base, hundreds gather inside the air-conditioned assembly hall for the ceremony. American flags line the walls, patriotic music plays, and smiles are everywhere.
CAPTAIN BENJAMIN WENDLAND: Basically, it's like a big ceremony or a party that we're putting together.
CARBERRY: Captain Benjamin Wendland(ph) is one of the organizers of the ceremony.
WENDLAND: It's pretty exciting. We actually have 44 candidates from 24 different countries that are going to be naturalized today and become U.S. citizens.
CARBERRY: He says there were a lot of moving pieces to pull the ceremony together, but the single most important detail...
WENDLAND: Whether it's done here or anywhere in the world, they have to say the oath. And as soon as that oath is read and they receive their certificates, they are actually U.S. citizens.
CARBERRY: Among those preparing to recite that oath is Griselda Murorodarte(ph). The 21-year-old Army specialist was born in Mexico and grew up in California.
GRISELDA MURORODARTE: It's very important for me today to become a U.S. citizen because I do wear the flag on my right shoulder. And I proudly wear it. And now I can proudly say that I am an American citizen.
CARBERRY: She says that when she was 4, her mother took her and her sister from a bad family situation in southern Mexico and brought her to the U.S.
MURORODARTE: Everything I do today I do for her, because she did a lot of sacrifices for me in order for me to be here.
CARBERRY: She says she knew that joining the Army would allow her to get her citizenship more quickly, but she joined more because of the educational opportunities. Same with Private First Class Shaeyon Klemann(ph). She was born in Jamaica and lived there until she was 19.
PFC SHAEYON KLEMANN: Then I moved to the United States with my dad. I was living in Richmond, Virginia for two years, after which I joined the Army.
CARBERRY: And, like the others here, she's excited to take the oath.
KLEMANN: It's a major accomplishment. And I'm very honored and very proud. It's been a long way, but it's here today. And I'm very happy - overwhelmed.
CARBERRY: Once everyone's inside, the ceremony comes to order.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Welcome to the Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan's 2012 Naturalization Ceremony.
CARBERRY: Brigadier General Kristin French addresses the candidates.
BRIGADIER GENERAL KRISTIN FRENCH: You each have a unique story to tell about your journey that led you here today. But you all have one thing in common. You're here because you've not merely chosen to live in this country, you have chosen to serve this country and to become an American citizen while deployed in Afghanistan.
CARBERRY: Pius Bannis with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the all-important oath.
PIUS BANNIS: So help me god.
CROWD: So help me god.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause as we congratulate our new American citizens.
CARBERRY: Marine Corporal Carlos Silva is originally from Nicaragua. His parents brought him to the U.S. when he was a child. He says his parents are also in the process of getting their citizenship.
CORPORAL CARLOS SILVA: It's real happy to know that pretty soon that my entire family's going to be U.S. citizens. I'm happy about that. It's a proud day in my family.
CARBERRY: And his plans when he returns home from this tour?
SILVA: Spend time with family, be proud that I'm a U.S. citizen and hopefully vote in this election.
CARBERRY: Sean Carberry, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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