Fort Riley soldiers become citizens at naturalization ceremony

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 5:27 PM CDT
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FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) - Soldiers posted at Fort Riley became citizens of the United States at a naturalization ceremony on April 28.

Fort Riley says about 16 soldiers attended a naturalization ceremony on April 28 to become citizens of a country they have already sworn to protect. It said the soldiers come from Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Guatemala and other nations.

According to the military base, applicants had to study and test their knowledge about the U.S. before they were accepted to a citizenship ceremony.

“We had to study about the history of the country,” said Pvt. 1st Class Emmanuel Cudjoe, a tanker with 2nd battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “It was pretty tough but we made it through. It’s doable.”

Cudjoe said not only was it doable, but the studying also benefitted him.

“All you’ve got to do is go there, they’ll walk you through the forms that you need, the paperwork and everything,” Cudjoe said. “It’s not hard. Once you have the right person to talk to, everything will move smoothly.”

“For the interview I was nervous, I didn’t know what they were going to ask,” said Spc. Samuel Anane, also with 2nd Bn., 34th Armor Regt., 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. “It was a little intimidating. I was nervous when I got in there. But once you study and understand the kind of questions to expect, you should be ok.”

According to Ft. Riley, Cudjoe and Anane both came from Ghana and have been in the army for about 18 months. It said another new citizen, Specialist Gordon Akim Smith from 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st inf. Div., said the ceremony was a journey that took years to finish.

“I went up the chain of command and the processes here was smooth,” said Smith. “I’m thankful, I’m happy, I’m proud to be a United States Citizen.”

Smith said he is excited to share a relationship with his new nation.

“I’m a hard worker,” Smith said. “When I have goals, when I set goals, I work toward my goals. I feel like I have more opportunities in the United States …. Because back in a third-world country there are not much (in the way of) opportunities given to you in terms of education. Being here is a greater opportunity for me to elevate myself in life.”

Smith said becoming a citizen meant there is a new element of service in his life goals now.

“I want to make the military a career,” Smith said. “I want to serve my country first before I serve my community. I want to study telecommunications because I have a background in radio and electronics … that’s my goals as of now.”

According to Ft. Riley, Specialist Ahmed Amine Bennani shared the long process with his wife, Veronica Godinez. It said Godinez is from Guatemala while Bennani is from Morocco and the two met and married in Boston. It said the ceremony was a confirmation of belonging to Bennani and Godinez.

Bennani praised the help of his wife.

“There’s too much work, too much paperwork,” Bennani said. “I was lucky enough to have her support me with all of that as I – I suck at paperwork.”

Godinez said the ceremony is validation for her feelings about her husband and a start to their new life as an American couple.

“I’m very happy,” said Godinez. “Sometimes when you are from another country, you feel this is your country. This is like them telling you, ‘Yes, this is your country’ and no one can let you go. He’s fighting for his country, working for his country, facing everything for his country, because this is his country now. And now he can say proudly, ‘I am American.’”

Fort Riley residents that need help with the application for citizenship, call the Fort Riley Staff Judge Advocate legal office at 785-239-3117 to make an appointment.

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