TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras –
Two Joint Task Force-Bravo Soldiers became U.S. citizens here June 10 in the first U.S. naturalization ceremony to take place in Central America.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Damien Milne and U.S. Army Sgt. Carmen Villa raised their right hands and took the oath of citizenship reaffirming the oath they both took when they became Soldiers in the U.S. Army several years ago.
Sergeant Milne, originally from the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands, moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, at the age of 14 to attend high school. He said he knew from an early age that he always wanted to join the Army, but his parents insisted on a college education first.
With a degree under his belt, Sergeant Milne did join the Army and would have been eligible to be an officer, except that he was not a U.S. citizen.
But the choice to give up his home citizenship was not an easy one, he said.
"I'm excited to finally do this," Sergeant Milne said before his official naturalization ceremony. "I should have done this a long time ago but I just wasn't ready to give up my citizenship back home."
Today, with two Iraq tours to his credit and more than seven years of Army service, the husband and father of four is a full-fledged U.S. citizen and eligible for a commission as a U.S. Army officer.
"It still hasn't fully sunk in yet," Sergeant Milne said after the ceremony. "But it feels good."
Sergeant Villa came to the U.S. through a different path but one that also led her, ultimately, to the Army as well.
When she was six years old, Sergeant Villa moved with her parents to the United States from Mexico. Her parents are U.S. citizens but Sergeant Villa said they didn't automatically change her citizenship for her. They wanted to wait until she came of age and could make her own decision about her citizenship.
As a high school student, Sergeant Villa met several military recruiters, but it was an Army NCO who caught her attention with his attentiveness and patience in answering her questions. When she told her parents about her decision to join the Army, she said they were very supportive.
Sergeant Villa said she has long wanted to pursue U.S. citizenship but being a Soldier has always come first for her. As a young supply specialist working a security detail in Iraq, Sergeant Villa had the opportunity to attend a large U.S. citizenship ceremony there. She said she knew then that she really wanted to take the same oath herself but she was there to do a job, not to focus on herself.
After completing her second tour in Iraq, Sergeant Villa volunteered for a tour here in Honduras with Joint Task Force-Bravo. It was upon her arrival here that she finally contacted Mr. Emigdio Martinez of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Tegucigalpa and began taking the necessary steps to become a U.S. citizen.
"I'm excited and thrilled that it's finally taking place," Sergeant Villa said before the ceremony.
Joint Task Force-Bravo Commander U.S. Army Col. Richard Juergens is just as thrilled for his two Soldiers.
"I am so proud to watch these two fine Soldiers become U.S. citizens," the commander said. "I'm thrilled for them and I'm personally happy that I get to be a part of it."
Sergeant Milne is a helicopter electrician assigned to JTF-Bravo's 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment. He works on the unit's two types of helicopters, the UH-60 and HH-60 Blackhawk and the CH-47 Chinook.
Sergeant Villa is a unit supply specialist also assigned to the 1-228th. She is responsible for issuing and maintaining supplies in support of the unit's airborne mission.
Joint Task Force-Bravo is U.S. Southern Command's quick response force in the region. The unit provides humanitarian aid in response to natural disasters throughout Central America. It also conducts medical readiness missions throughout the region in order to enhance regional cooperation and stability.