Army Reserve Spc. Kendell K. Frederick was stationed in Iraq when he decided he wanted to become a citizen of the country he was serving.
But the process to apply for citizenship hadn't been without its glitches, his mother said. A problem processing his fingerprints prompted the 21-year-old Randallstown High School graduate to travel with a convoy to a base where he could resolve the issue.
He was killed on the way.
"He died for this country, but he wasn't a citizen," Frederick's mother, Michelle Murphy, said yesterday. "It's so unfair. There should be a law on the books that when you take the oath to protect, serve and defend this country, you become a U.S. citizen."
Frederick's family is lobbying for a federal bill that would make it easier for resident aliens to become citizens when they join the military. Calling it "Kendell's bill," Frederick's mother said, "If you're fighting, prepared to die for this country, you should be able to vote for your leader."
At the memorial service for Frederick on Friday, Murphy will be presented with a document showing that her son, a native of Trinidad, was granted U.S. citizenship posthumously.
The federal Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services paperwork for posthumous citizenship was one page and took about five minutes to complete, said Frederick's stepfather, Kenmore Murphy. "Why couldn't they have done that before he died?"
Frederick was killed Oct. 19 outside Tikrit when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle - the last in a convoy of military vehicles, according to Army officials.
Frederick came to live in Baltimore County when he was 15 years old, Murphy said. At Randallstown High, he was active in the ROTC program. And after graduating in 2003, Frederick joined the Army, signing up for eight years. He turned 18 at boot camp, his mother said.
Frederick arrived in Iraq, where he repaired generators and transmissions, about 10 months ago. The war had been hard on him, his mother said, recalling how emotional he'd been in February when he told her how he'd killed for the first time. "He couldn't handle it," she said. "He hated it there."
Still, she said, about four months ago, he felt that it was important for him to become a citizen. She had helped her son send in the BCIS paperwork and kept him updated via e-mail about the responses from the agency, including a request that he come to a bureau office to be fingerprinted, even though his fingerprints were on record with the military, she said.
Murphy said one of her son's commanders told her he was traveling to a nearby base to resolve the fingerprint issue.
Three years ago, President Bush signed an executive order waiving the waiting period for members of the military to apply for citizenship. But Frederick's family said more should be done.
"It should be their choice when they sign up," said Kenmore Murphy.
At the end of August, 26,730 noncitizens were serving on active duty in the military, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon. About 3,190 of them were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, she said.
Murphy and her husband, both 40, said they expected opposition to their proposal from those with post Sept. 11 security concerns, though Kenmore Murphy noted that background checks are done on those joining the military.
"If this helps another family, it's going to be worth the fight," Michelle Murphy said.