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Ten current and former military servicemembers sworn in as newest U.S. citizens

Sen. Murray: “For generations, immigrants from around the world, and from every walk of life, have sacrificed everything for a shot at the American Dream. And the United States is absolutely better for it."

(Seattle, WA) – Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) joined current and former servicemembers and their families, officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and members of the U.S. Navy for a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS Anchorage as part of the Seafair Festival. Ten immigrants, both current and former servicemembers, took the oath of allegiance and became naturalized U.S. citizens. In her keynote address, Sen. Murray highlighted the tens of thousands of immigrants currently serving in the U.S. military, noting immigrants are not only a vital part of communities across our country, they are also integral to our armed forces.

Key excerpts from Sen. Murray’s remarks:

“To our ten servicemembers: Your journey to this day – and this ship—started in just about every part of the globe: Poland, Belarus, The Marshall Islands, China, Haiti, Burkina Faso, The United Kingdom, The Gambia, Peru, and American Samoa. Ten different life experiences. Ten different sets of hopes and dream for your futures, and the futures of your family members. But one thing you all share is your pursuit of the American dream.”

“…it’s a stark reminder to so many of the rest of us about how priceless our own citizenship is— and why so many who have come before us have died fighting for it. They knew that this democracy is precious and by no means is it guaranteed. We must fight for it every day. We must fight for the America we love...”

“Instead of shutting doors or building walls—giving in to our fear-- instead, what is truly American is to celebrate diversity, learn from our country’s history, welcome people who seek safety and freedom, and relentlessly pursue the spirit that always has us striving to do more and be better. I have seen this spirit play out over and over again in my lifetime, and especially in recent months, as people in Washington state and across this country have risen up to make their voices heard.”

Sen. Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you for that kind introduction, Cindy. It is my great honor to be with you today to take part in such a momentous occasion for both our country and for ten esteemed members of our military. In a matter of minutes, these men and women will become the newest citizens of the United States of America— a wonderful accomplishment that caps off many years of hard work.

But before we get to that, I want to recognize those who made this ceremony possible: Rear Admiral Gary Mayes, Captain Dennis Jacko, Seattle Field Office Director Cindy Munita, Senior Chief Jean Hero Lamy, and Event Coordinator Michael Humphrey. And of course, I want to thank the family members who joined us today.  I think the expressions on many of your faces reflects the pride so many of us feel right now.

To our ten servicemembers: Your journey to this day – and this ship—started in just about every part of the globe: Poland, Belarus, The Marshall Islands, China, Haiti, Burkina Faso, The United Kingdom, The Gambia, Peru, and American Samoa.

Ten different life experiences. Ten different sets of hopes and dream for your futures, and the futures of your family members. But one thing you all share is your pursuit of the American dream. That pursuit brought you here today. A pursuit that has meant years of studying, test-taking, a whole lot of waiting, probably some hand-wringing, but most significantly—your military service.

As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I know that signing up for military service was no small undertaking for you or your family. And I have no doubt serving in the United States military has tested you at times—physically, emotionally, and more.  You spent months away from family to train among strangers. Maybe learned a new language while on the job. You took an oath that meant you were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the United States. It was a tough journey to take, but you have proven yourselves even tougher. And for that, you joined a distinguished group of immigrant servicemembers-- who, for generations-- have served our country honorably, fighting in every major war from the Revolutionary War, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we speak, there are tens of thousands of immigrants in the ranks of our armed forces—soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, coast guardsmen-- who are ably serving our nation and defending our freedoms, even though their own U.S. citizenship is still a far-off dream.  That doesn’t stop them from going far and above the call of duty.  In fact, immigrant servicemembers represent 20 percent of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. In short, immigrants are not only a vital part of communities across this country, they are integral to our armed forces.

And the ten of you, in your service to our country, have earned not only the gratitude of everyone you see here today, but by building a bridge to the American Dream through military service, you’ve earned the right to become a U.S. citizen, continuing a tradition that isn’t just a part of America, it is America.

For generations, immigrants from around the world—and from every walk of life-- have sacrificed everything for a shot at the American Dream. And the United States is absolutely better for it. Successive waves of immigrants have brought with them innovation, entrepreneurship, and a deep appreciation for the freedoms this nation was built upon.

Immigrants like Kenny, one of our servicemembers here today, who brought his family to this country, who said he’s looking forward to the freedom and opportunity that America has to offer. Or Yahor, who was born into a country with an authoritarian regime. As he said, there were no opportunities to grow in his home country, but he had ambition and he wanted to make a difference. He found his calling in the United States Army. America welcomes you with open arms, because that’s what this country is about: giving everyone the ability to aim higher, do more, and dream big— no matter what you look like, who you worship, who you love, or where you came from.

And it’s a stark reminder to so many of the rest of us about how priceless our own citizenship is— and why so many who have come before us have died fighting for it. They knew that this democracy is precious-- and by no means is it guaranteed. We must fight for it every day. We must fight for the America we love, just like our grandmothers and grandfathers, our aunts and uncles, and our moms and dads who came before us.

Like you, they endured long journeys and made tough choices in the pursuit of something better for themselves and their family. They never took anything for granted. They have shaped this country, as you will too.

And like them, you will find that America is great, even if she is not always perfect. There have been times in our history—even right here in Seattle—when we have allowed our better angels to be drowned out by anger and exclusivity. When we have reacted with fear, not openness.  When we have been silent at times when we needed to speak up.  When we have momentarily lost sight of the values that made this country what it is today.

The American story includes painful chapters, but rather than ignore parts of our history, today, I challenge us all to double-down on what we ultimately know to be true-- that to be American is not necessarily to be perfect, but it is American to always work to do better and be better.

Instead of shutting doors or building walls—giving in to our fear--- instead, what is truly American is to celebrate diversity, learn from our country’s history, welcome people who seek safety and freedom, and relentlessly pursue the spirit that always has us striving to do more and be better.

I have seen this spirit play out over and over again in my lifetime, and especially in recent months, as people in Washington state and across this country have risen up to make their voices heard. They have stood up against intolerance and called out injustice. They have marched in the streets for those who could not. They have reached out to friends and to complete strangers to let them know, they had their back. And again today, I see it in the ten of you, willing to defend a country that wasn’t yet your own—but now so clearly is. If there was ever a doubt that America was already great, this is where I know it is true.

So when you take that oath in a few minutes, you solidify your place as part of the American story. And you will help write the next chapter. Someday, when you are on the other side of the stage, when you are faced with a moment in history when your character—or the character of your nation is tested, I hope you remember the lessons of the many who have come before you, and honor the ones who will follow. Given your path to get to this day— I am filled with great hope about the future of this country. And I am honored to be standing here with each of you.

Thank you for your service. I’m so proud to be your voice in the United States Senate. And I promise you, I will continue to fight for the policies that make you proud to be a new citizen of our great country, the United States of America.

Thank you.