Naturalization ceremony


Cuba, Ukraine, and Mexico: these are just a few of the 18 countries that were represented today at a Naturalization Ceremony in Gulfport.

America the beautiful, it’s the place many of us have called home our entire lives. Now, 29 people from 18 different countries can call it their home just like us.

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Natalie Kirkby moved to the United States just six years ago after meeting her husband, an American who was a student in a Russian language class she was teaching at the time in Odessa, Ukraine. This was a chapter in her life that unfolded into a love story, not just with her husband, but also for this country. “I fell in love with America and with the Coast. It’s beautiful. It’s a gorgeous place and I’m proud that I’m here.”

When these 29 now U.S. citizens walked out of these doors, they knew their lives would forever be changed. Louis Rodriguez said, “I wanted to escape Cuba because it is a communist country. This country gives me so many opportunities in my life. I’m just excited about it.”

Rodriguez looked hopefully ahead as he sang the Star Spangled Banner for the first time as an American citizen while also reflecting on his time back in Cuba and Guantanamo Bay. “It’s bringing me back to the day I was swimming to Guantanamo Bay and I made it to the Navy base in Guantanamo, my country, and you know, I remember just waiting for the ‘yes you can go to the United States.’ Now it’s coming back to my brain now when they call me and show me my certificate. It’s like I completed the job, finally I completed the job.”

All 29 new American citizens proudly waved an American flag in a sea of smiles and red, white, and blue, holding fast to a dream now realized as they join the rest of us in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.