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    Ark. National Guard members becoming U.S. citizens

    6:53 PM, Oct 9, 2012   |    comments
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    • Six National Guard members became U.S. citizens on Tuesday. (Photo: Pam Baccam, KTHV)
    • Six National Guard members became U.S. citizens on Tuesday. (Photo: Pam Baccam, KTHV)

    NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - To serve in the U.S. military, you don't have to be an American Citizen, but earning that title is encouraged and celebrated. The Arkansas National Guard honored six soldiers who did just that, Tuesday.

    "Actually one of my best friends is getting his citizenship with me," says Specialist Hong Seo who is now a U.S Citizen.

    I've always considered myself an American," says Seo. "I moved here from South Korea when I was three."

    The immigration law changed in 2010 allowing military members to apply for U.S. Citizenship on the first day of basic training. They receive their citizenship as long as they complete their basic training.

    Seo's best friend Specialist Bryan Cerrato was born in Panama and he says becoming a U.S citizen will allow him to enter into flight school.

    "A U.S. citizenship offers clearances and stuff and go to different schools," says Cerrato.

    The six soldiers' roots extend from Panama, Mexico, Jamaica and South Korea.

    "These men and women epitomize what America is all about. Freedom, democracy and excellence," says Maj. Gen. William Woffard.

    They demonstrated their commitment not only by joining the military, but making another important step of becoming an American.

    The naturalization process normally takes several years and can cost up to $700. The military speeds up the process and the fees are waived.

    Camp Joseph T. Robinson will host the Citizenship Recognition Ceremony at 1:00 p.m. The guardsmen who will become citizens are:

    • Spc. Bryan Cerrato a current resident of Higden, who is originally from Panama
    • Spc. Roberto Elias Hernandez a current resident of Dyess, who is originally from Mexico
    • Spc. Banthi Kevin Munoz a current resident of Jonesboro, who is originally from Mexico
    • Spc. Rosendo Rodriguez, a current resident of Hope, who is originally from Mexico
    • Pvt. Jonnie Nichole Rucker, a current resident of Conway, who is originally from Jamaica
    • Spc. Hong Sik Seo, a current resident of Little Rock, who is originally from South Korea

    THV's Pam Baccam is following the story.
    Twitter: @pbaccam

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