Eighteen more Marines are now citizens of the country they serve following a large naturalization ceremony Friday on a historic battleship moored in North Carolina.
The Marines hail from 14 different countries across five continents and are members of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, according to a news release from the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, based 2nd Marine Division. The ceremony was one of the largest ever for a Marine infantry battalion, according to the press release.
The Marines swore their oaths of allegiance aboard the battleship North Carolina before Judge Richard E. Myers II, chief judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, according to the release.
“Today was a great chance to recognize a significant event in the lives of these young Marines,” Lt. Col. William Kerrigan, the Marines’ commanding officer, said in the press release. “They have already raised their hands and committed to defending this nation, without even being U.S. citizens. Now that they have earned their citizenship, I’m excited to see where it takes them.”
Now that the Marines are citizens, they can serve in more military occupational specialties and seek commissioning opportunities, according to the release.
The site of the ceremony has a storied history: Commissioned in 1941, the battleship North Carolina earned 15 battle stars for its support of naval offensives in the Pacific during World War II. It was decommissioned in 1947.
In 1962, the battleship became a memorial to North Carolinians who served and died in the war.
The naturalization ceremony came days before the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it easier for service members and veterans to apply for citizenship and harder for the government to deport noncitizen veterans.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has naturalized more than 158,000 U.S. service members since 2002, and 10,600 in the last year, according to the agency’s website.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.