By Mary O’KEEFE
Although the main event at the American Heroes Air Show was the helicopters, the day began with 44 people participating in a naturalization ceremony.
The road to naturalization for many takes some time – not just to begin the process but to qualify for the process. One qualification is that candidates have to be at least 18 years old, have been a permanent resident for at least five years (three years for those who are married to a U.S. citizen) and meet all other requirements, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Once those interested in becoming a citizen have qualified, it takes about seven months to get through the application process.
“Our goal is six months, so we are getting close,” said Sharon Scheidhauer, public affairs officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
She added there are many green card avenues to gain lawful sponsorship and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can help those interested navigate the process.
A green card holder is a permanent resident who has been granted authorization to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, according to the Dept. of Homeland Security.
On Nov. 12 at the American Heroes Air Show, 44 people from 22 countries took the Oath of Allegiance. Of those 44 taking the oath, three of them were active duty military. One of the 44 was a Desert Storm veteran.
Jorge Loera Gamboa served for the U.S. in Desert Storm; he served in Germany until he was deployed to Iraq.
“It’s hard to bring [those memories] back up, but I am proud and happy I [served],” Loera Gamboa said.
It had taken about two years for Loera Gamboa to get through the naturalization process because COVID slowed everything down. He said once he got back from service he returned to his civilian life and admitted that it’s easy to take the country for granted.
“Nowadays you can’t take anything for granted. There are a lot of things going on and you need to be able to vote and support the community the best way you can,” he said.
After the swearing-in the knowledge that he was now an official citizen was a powerful feeling.
“It’s just emotionally overwhelming. It’s a big wave rolling [over me] and just starting to come to the surface,” he said. “And watching the current [active] military [taking the oath] – just seeing them now is just a wonderful and joyful thing.”
He added that seeing the families of those taking the oath was also a special part of the ceremony. He had arrived in the U.S. when he was 5 and while most of his family was in the states there are a few who remain in his country of origin, Mexico. He plans to go visit them and tell them he is an American citizen.
“It is [a sense of pride] for the whole family. I am proud of my pops, he has passed [on] but he became a citizen way before I did,” Loera Gamboa said.
Loera Gamboa spoke to CVW shortly after taking the oath; he was trying to get hold of the emotion of becoming a citizen.
“I am getting there. I have always been proud of my country, no matter what. This was my country, and now it’s official,” he said.
His wife Gloria Oliva was at his side and could relate to the emotions her husband was feeling. She had come from Guatemala to Anchorage, Alaska when she was 3. She had never seen snow before so it was quite a shock. Her family then moved to the LA area when she was 10.
“I grew up in Glendale,” she said.
Like her husband, the U.S. was her country but taking the oath meant so much to her. Her naturalization ceremony took place at Dodger Stadium where she joined over 2,000 people.
“I love this country. I love the people in it. I even started crying now because that has been my dream, to be part of this country – to run for office and do something [for the community],” she said.
The emotions of the couple who are both citizens were deep and meaningful.
“I can’t even describe [the feeling]. From the bottom of my heart everything is realized,” she said. “And now we are in this together.”