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Largest All-Military Naturalization Ceremony Hosted In San Diego

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The largest all-military naturalization ceremony in U.S. history took place in downtown San Diego Friday. Three hundred active-duty military personnel became U.S. citizens in a ceremony aboard the USS Midway in the city's downtown harbor.

The largest all-military naturalization ceremony in U.S. history took place in downtown San Diego Friday.

Three hundred active-duty military personnel became U.S. citizens in a ceremony aboard the USS Midway in the city's downtown harbor.

The new citizens hail from more than 50 countries from American Samoa to Zimbabwe and represent the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force branches of the armed forces.

Navy Seal Captain Colin Green highlighted foreign-born servicemembers’ unique contributions when he addressed the newly-minted Americans.

“You 300 bring innate language skills, cultural perspective and most of all a diversity of thought that are more critical than weapons systems in meeting challenges and solving problems with key allies and partner nations,” he said.

Before Friday's ceremony, the largest all-military naturalization took place last Fourth of July in Baghdad. On that day Vice President Joseph Biden addressed 240 new American citizens.

Petty Officer Maria Pimentel decided to submit her citizenship paperwork after nine years in the Navy that have included deployments to Iraq and Kuwait. She was born in the Philippines and came to the United States with her parents in 1991.

"I wanted to serve in the military because my dad didn't get a chance to do it," she said. "I've always seen my parents work and I wanted to give something back to them."

She said becoming a citizen will let her pursue becoming an officer.

About 170,000 non-citizens are members of the military. Roughly 6,000 are naturalized each year. Non-citizens who have performed any active military service since September 11, 2001 are currently eligible to apply for expedited citizenship.

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