BAGHDAD, Iraq - As part of a mass naturalization ceremony on Monday with more than 190 soldiers, six participants assigned to the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were among those who took the oath.
Four Hoosiers were among them:
<*>Spc. Hau Len Thang, 23, of Fort Wayne, originally from Myanmar, is vehicle driver/gunner with 1638th Transportation Company, Task Force 1-293rd Infantry Battalion stationed at Joint Base Balad.
"I joined the military to be in the finest military in the world and to have the experiences of facing different challenges," Thang said. "Being a United States citizen comes with a lot of benefits that most people take for granted. The most important one that I feel is to be able to vote and have my voice heard. It's a blessing, really!"
<*>Spc. Mohamed Elhilali, 37, of Bristol, originally from Morocco, is a human resources assistant with 1638th Transportation Company, Task Force 1-293rd Infantry Battalion stationed at Joint Base Balad.
"Before I joined I made a decision because I think and believe that we are doing something good and we're trying to establish freedom and democracy for a peaceful world," Elhilali said. "It is a big day for me and the happiest day of my life."
<*>Spc. Luis G. Rocha, 28, of Indianapolis, and originally from Nicaragua, is gunner with Company C, Task Force 1-151st Infantry Battalion stationed at Forward Operating Base Q-West.
"I am grateful to be recognized overseas and I can't say enough just how good I feel; it's a good feeling," Rocha said. "I'm glad to represent my company, Charlie, 1-151 and for the state of Indiana and also for my friends and family back home. One of the main things I want to do is visit my family back in Nicaragua because I can travel with a U.S. passport." I feel very privileged."
<*>Spc. Arianne Jimenez, 24, of Indianapolis, and originally from the Dominican Republic, is a human resources assistant with Headquarters, 76th Special Troops Battalion stationed at Forward Operating Base Q-West.
"I have been waiting for this for a long time and it finally happened; it's a big thing for me," Jimenez said. "It is something that not everyone has a chance to do; only a certain percent of people can say they received their citizenship in Iraq."