MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Upon entering the U.S. armed forces, service members take a sacred oath to defend and protect this country. But some service members who step up to serve may not necessarily be citizens of the U.S.
"By law, officers must be U.S. citizens," said Michael Archer, director of legal assistance at Marine Corps Installations East. "But there are no citizenship requirements to enlist in the armed forces."
Service members and their families who are not U.S. citizens can utilize the base legal office for assistance in attaining citizenship.
"Service members can bring in their military ID and permanent residence card and speak with us," said Archer. "Then they will speak with one of our paralegals, and they will fill out an application and go through a checklist."
After the application is submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the process can take anywhere from three to six months before being completed.
Once applicants are approved they go through a naturalization ceremony.
"Naturalization ceremonies are moving, particularly with service members," said Archer. "Part of the oath they take is that they agree to serve in the armed forces if called to do so, in accordance with the law. But as service members they’re already serving their country."
One Marine who underwent the naturalization process served as a Marine for one year and six months before becoming a citizen.
"When I became a citizen, I was happy, excited and proud," said Lance Cpl. Sergio Flandes, a legal clerk with Headquarters and Support Battalion. "I love this country like if I was born here and after so many years of living here, and such a long process, I was glad that I had finally achieved this very important goal of becoming a citizen."
In addition to becoming a citizen, Flandes said the Marine Corps also helped him to become a better person, physically and mentally, and enabled him to travel to different places.
"For people who are willing to take the risk, don the uniform and go in harm’s way, we want to do everything we can to get those people everything they can to become citizens," said Archer.
The base legal office provides immigration and naturalization services Monday through Wednesday from 7:30 to 10 a.m. and 12:30 to 3 p.m.
For more information call base legal at 451-1903