INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Nearly 100 people will surely not forget this Independence Day Eve after they became American citizens Wednesday morning.
Among the new citizens was Mohammed Alem. Alem risked everything to help this country even before he was a citizen.
“It’s a great country. It’s safe,” Mohammed Alem said.
Alem said his citizenship certificate is a great gift. It’s a gift eight years in the making when he secretly began helping the Marines in his native Afghanistan before fleeing the country in 2014.
“My life was in danger,” explained Alem. “I miss my parents, my family, everyone.”
He and 97 others took the oath of citizenship on the lawn of the Benjamin Harrison Home on the eve of America’s 243rd birthday.
“This was a great day and it’s very meaningful for me,” said Alem.
Just a month ago, new citizen Kerolos Fahny graduated from Carmel High School.
“This is definitely a bigger deal. Getting the diploma was a big deal for my parents,” said Fahny. “But this was bigger. This is citizenship. Now I’m officially an American.”
Each new citizen was presented an American flag by a child.
Dawn Risa Villalba-McQuinn was given one by her own daughter.
“It’s an answer to prayer,” she said.
As an 11-year-old, her mother left her in the Phillipines to find a better life in America. But when things didn’t work out, she was virtually abandoned. As an adult she met and married an American.
She said citizenship gives her and her children a better future.
“It’s a great privilege to be brought here and be given a chance to be free,” she said.
So for 98 people, there are 98 stories, all with a common thread — faith in the red, white and blue to bring a better life.
Their official beginning is July 3, the day before the country celebrates the Fourth of July, a day which now has a whole new meaning for everyone raising their right hand.
“It’s going to be truly my heart because I’m a citizen right now,” said Fahny.
“Now I truly feel what it’s like to be one of you,” added Villalba-McQuinn.
“I’m so proud to attend and celebrate July 4th,” said Alem.