MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
When Cpl. Charlyston Schultz stepped foot on American soil for the first time in 1998, he never imagined that he would meet the president of the United States at his naturalization ceremony 12 years later.
When Schultz was just 13 years old, he and his two younger siblings traveled from Uberlandia, Brazil, to Atlanta to live with their mother. He only spoke Portuguese, but learned English with the help of his language tutor who also spoke Spanish.
Schultz graduated high school in 2005 and worked until he enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 2006. He wanted the challenge and was attracted to one of the Marine Corps’ most iconic leadership symbols – the NCO sword.
“I joined because of the (noncommissioned officer) sword,” said Schultz. “My brother and I wanted the sword, and we made a pact that we would get it someday.”
After Schultz completed basic training, he became a personnel clerk and was eventually assigned to 2nd Marine Division’s Permanent Change of Assignment Orders section, which eventually merged with the rest of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s administrative units and formed today’s Installation Personnel Administration Center.
In the beginning of March, Schultz contacted the base legal office to apply for his American citizenship. Although the process of becoming a U.S. citizen can be very daunting due to the amount of paperwork and seemingly indefinite waiting periods, Schultz said the legal office made the process smooth and expedient.
Just a few weeks after being submitted, Schultz’ paperwork was approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and his citizenship ceremony was originally scheduled for April 7 at the base legal office. A few days before his ceremony, however, Schultz received a surprise phone call asking if he could participate in a special ceremony in Washington D.C., instead. Although he wasn’t given any details about this special ceremony at the time, Schultz liked the idea and heartily agreed.
“I thought it was going to be something cool,” said Schultz. “I didn’t know what it was, so I was pretty anxious.”
Shortly after receiving the initial phone call, the 24-year-old learned that he was one of the service members who would become a naturalized U.S. citizen in the gardens of the White House where President Barack Obama would make an appearance.
On April 23, the 6-foot-6-inch tall Schultz sported his dress blues and stepped onto the grounds of the White House. He immediately noticed a few of the dignitaries who would witness this special occasion, including the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent.
Shortly after being seated in the front row, Schultz stood at attention for the arrival of the American President – who took his seat just a few feet away from the stunned Marine NCO.
“The President was standing right there!” exclaimed Schultz. “I was practically eye to eye with him. It was amazing.”
Schultz said he did his best to keep his bearing throughout the ceremony even after President Obama congratulated him and shook his hand.
“I felt really important,” said Schultz. “I never thought I would go to the White House, let alone meet the President. It was a great feeling.”
Schultz’s wife said she was excited to be able to witness this special event in her husband’s life.
“I was really proud of him,” she said. “Not everyone can say that they sat in the garden at the White House to become a citizen.”
Although a month has passed since Schultz’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Schultz still beams with pride and excitement when recalling the momentous occasion.
Master Sgt. Sherrie Runge, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the inbound branch within IPAC, said Schultz still respects his Brazilian roots, but is proud to be an American.
As Schultz’s end of active duty service date approaches, he said he would remember this occasion forever and the organization that made it all possible.
“I joined to give back to my country – the USA,” said Schultz. “I wanted the sense of belonging and felt a strong sense of patriotism toward America. This is definitely the highlight of my career.”