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My Country 'Tis of Us

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- (Part of a series of stories about Michigan Air National Guard Airman originally from different countries.)

My country got stronger by a factor of 40 this morning.

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 40 people from lands literally around the globe took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and became American citizens in a short ceremony held at the Philippine American Cultural Center in Southfield, Mich. Among them was Airman 1st Class Eduardo Arteaga, a member of the Michigan Air National Guard. (You will find Arteaga's story here by following the link next to this story).

Three were from Bangladesh. One was from Nepal. There were people from Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico. One from Iran and about a dozen from Iraq. In all, 17 different countries were represented. It was your standard brief government ceremony. A few words were said. Certificates were handed out. Lunch was served by volunteers.

It was also one of the most exciting, emotional things I have ever witnessed. All those people, wanting to become Americans. There were no cheering masses, no parades of people waving flags. But I couldn't help feel that there should have been.

After Judge Grand administered the oath of office, he once again stepped to the microphone.

"My fellow Americans..." he began. Earlier he, and a few other speakers had made a few remarks, the kind you often hear at graduations and similar events. The speakers talked about job and educational opportunities in America. About the importance of voting and participating in our democracy. All important stuff.

But no words carried the impact, to me at least, of those three simple words spoken by the judge. "My fellow Americans..."

Actually, an earlier speaker had also used those words. But they hadn't been quite true at that moment. Now, minutes later, they were.

A few more words and then, the ceremony was over. Most people wanted a photo with the judge, in front of the American flag.

And me? I just wanted to stand there. And be there.

With my fellow Americans.

Welcome to our country. Mine - and yours.

Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marks its 97th year of continuous military air operations in 2014.