Marines become citizens as they finish boot camp in this screen grab from a video of a Jan. 31 Naturalization Ceremony at MCRD Parris Island. (Marine Corps)
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MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — Ten young men became American citizens on the same day they were presented to their families as Marines, part of a new program that allows for recruits to go through the naturalization process at the end of boot camp.
Members of Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, participated in the Family Day ceremony, which precedes boot camp graduation, here on Jan. 31. Ten of the new Marines decided to join the Corps before they were officially considered Americans. But that changed as they stood in front of the rest of the battalion and their families, raised their right hands and took the Oath of Allegiance to become citizens of the country they've sworn to protect.
The 10 Marines were born in different countries. Pvt. Giuseppe Raccuglia, 18, was born in Italy and came to the U.S. as a toddler. His family moved here for better opportunities, his mother, Maria DiBacco, said. They traveled from Hartford, Conn., to see Raccuglia graduate and watched him become a Marine and an American.
"I have been crying since Monday," Raccuglia's mom said. "It is all very emotional."
Raccuglia, who picked up the crash, fire and rescue military occupational specialty during boot camp, said he wanted to become a Marine so he could give back to the country that took in his family.
"We were all part of something really special," he said of himself and the other nine Marines who took the oath. "Not only did we become Marines today, but citizens of a great country."
Pvt. Abraham Ostos Mendoza, 18, was born in Peru and moved to the U.S. about six years ago. He said he joined the Marine Corps to become part of the nation's finest fighting force.
"I was nervous," he said. "Standing out there becoming a Marine and a citizen at the same time, right after boot camp and the Crucible — it's just a lot."
He said it was difficult, at times, to follow what his drill instructors were saying during boot camp because they speak so quickly, and English is his second language. He'll now move toward his MOS, working construction, and said becoming a Marine will change the way he acts every day.
The remaining eight Marines were from Bhutan, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Jamaica, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic and Haiti
The battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Joseph Jones, welcomed them not only into the Marine Corps, but "into the most diverse and greatest nation on Earth."
The naturalization program started aboard Parris Island on Jan. 3. It's an expansion on the law, authorized by President Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, that allows noncitizens serving in the armed forces to immediately file for citizenship.
The Army established a program giving noncitizens the ability to naturalize when they graduated from basic training in 2009, and the Navy joined the initiative in 2010.
The ceremony here marked the fourth Family Day at Parris Island that included the naturalization process.