Difficult journey, worth trip: From documented immigrant to serving American

Difficult journey, worth trip: From documented immigrant to serving American

LCpl Edgar Raul Torres-Roman poses for a photo with the Honorable Cynthia Norton at his naturalization ceremony at the Kansas City Courthouse, Aug. 22. Torres-Roman represented Mexico, one of 32 states in which applicants from the ceremony were citizens. Photo by LCpl Bradley Carrier.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (August 23, 2013) - For many foreigners, becoming a citizen of the United States can be an intimidating process. With the help of the United States armed forces it may be easier than most imagine.

LCpl Edgar Raul Torres-Roman, 26, from the 9th Marine Corps district, Kansas City, Mo., is one Marine who recently became one of those few.

"It feels weird, it's overwhelming," said Torres-Roman following his ceremony. "My parents were proud and so overwhelmed they broke down in tears. I was fighting to not break down too."

But the road to becoming a United States citizen was a goal of that was long overdue.

Torres-Roman arrived in Pacoima, Calif., at the age of two with his parents on a tourist visa from Mexico. By the age of four he had aspirations to serve after seeing a commercial for Toy for Tots where a Marine was standing embassy duty, Torres-Roman wanted to be a part of what he saw.

"I didn't know at the time the difference between a cop and a Marine." Torres-Roman said, "I just told my mom I wanted to be one of them."

Years passed, and Torres-Roman still hadn't achieved his dream of more than 20 years as he waited for residency documents to process. In the meantime, he attended junior college. As Torres-Roman got older the opportunity to serve in the United States military became closer to reality. At the age of 25, Torres-Roman left for Marine Corps recruit training knowing little of what was yet to come.

Upon graduation of recruit training, combat training, and his military occupational specialty school for Administration, Torres-Roman received orders to the 9th Marine Corps District in Kansas City, Mo. He met his leadership who explained to him many of the benefits offered by becoming a United States citizen.

Torres-Roman made his dreams come true Aug. 22 when he stood up in the Kansas City Courthouse and took the Oath of Allegiance. He said it's a new beginning, and will support his determination to serve the United States for years to come.

"We can utilize a Marine with citizenship to achieve greater goals," said 1stLt Rothana L. Um, adjutant, "It's not only a benefit to the Marine, but also to the command."

Certain military occupational specialties require a security clearance, which is unavailable to service members without citizenship.

Under a 2009 initiative by the Department of Defense, the option to gain naturalization upon completion of basic training during a time of hostility became available. Enlistees are given the opportunity to become citizens by the end of basic training, gaining not only the title of a United States service member, but also as a United States citizen.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, since 2001 more than 70,000 non-citizens gained U.S citizenship through the military making up roughly five percent of the entire armed forces.

"As I see it right now I want to make a career out of it." Torres-Roman said. "I love the Marines around me and I love the motivation."

Marines.mil is the official website of the United States Marine Corps and is maintained by the Marine Corps' Division of Public Affairs.