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Adeyemi Gbadamosi, right, who was born in Nigeria and became a citizen on Monday, pauses for a photo with with a Navy friend, Mubarak Ibrahim. Gbadamosi, who came to the U.S. in 2016, lives in New Carrollton. The naturalization ceremony took place aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day for 19 citizens, who hail from 17 different countries.
Adeyemi Gbadamosi, right, who was born in Nigeria and became a citizen on Monday, pauses for a photo with with a Navy friend, Mubarak Ibrahim. Gbadamosi, who came to the U.S. in 2016, lives in New Carrollton. The naturalization ceremony took place aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day for 19 citizens, who hail from 17 different countries. (Amy Davis)

Immigrants from 17 countries — including about 10 current and former members of the U.S. military — boarded the retired U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney Monday morning in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

When they debarked after their Veterans Day naturalization ceremony, they were citizens of one nation.

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The event was one of several Department of Homeland Security naturalization ceremonies organized around the country in conjunction with the federal holiday honoring military veterans. Facilitated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 19 men and women aboard the Taney took the Oath of Allegiance.

Military servicemen and women are eligible to become U.S. citizens under special provisions of the the Immigration and Nationality Act. Citizenship is not required to enlist in the military, though individuals are required to have a permanent resident card, also known as a Green Card.

Ezequiel Morales Chavez, second from right, looks up at the Presentation of Colors by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard before the swearing-in for 19 new citizens, who came from 17 countries. The naturalization ceremony took place aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day.
Ezequiel Morales Chavez, second from right, looks up at the Presentation of Colors by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard before the swearing-in for 19 new citizens, who came from 17 countries. The naturalization ceremony took place aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day. (Amy Davis)

Veterans also were honored across the state for their contributions to the nation and its security. In Ellicott City, Veterans Elementary School hosted its 12th annual Salute to Veterans event. Veterans called for sincerity in thanking military members during the Annual Veterans Day Ceremony hosted by the Fleet Reserve Association in Annapolis.

In Baltimore, junior ROTC students and public officials gathered Monday morning at the War Memorial to honor those who served. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young told the packed crowd they represented the best America had to offer.

“Regardless of the branch you served in,” he said, “you all took an oath to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution of the United States of America.”

During the ceremony aboard the Taney, Roger Picker, an Air Force veteran and associate counsel for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, highlighted the importance of Veterans Day for American citizens.

“Thanks to them, we stand united," he said. “You and I can live our lives and pursue our dreams.”

The best way to thank a veteran for their service is by exercising the freedoms they fought to protect, Picker said. He encouraged the new citizens to embrace their civic responsibilities and exercise their rights to free speech, to vote and to participate in democracy.

“Democracies are great, but they only work if we all do our part,” he said. “Veterans did their part by serving in uniform and placing their lives on the line. We can show veterans we appreciate their service by each doing our part to ensure the continued success of the United States.”

Picker also pointed out the significance of holding the ceremony aboard the last warship still afloat that fought in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Sunny Kim, of Baltimore, who emigated from South Korea ten years ago, waves a flag after becoming a citizen today in a naturalization ceremony aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day. Nov. 11, 2019
Sunny Kim, of Baltimore, who emigated from South Korea ten years ago, waves a flag after becoming a citizen today in a naturalization ceremony aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day. Nov. 11, 2019 (Amy Davis)

Adeyemi Gbadamosi wondered aloud Monday whether his newfound citizenship was indeed real. To him, it felt like a dream.

Gbadamosi grew up in Nigeria hoping he would one day be able to move to the United States. He emigrated in 2016 and joined the Navy. Now that he is a citizen, he plans to eventually start his own business in real estate and become a pastor in his church.

“This is the best day of my life,” he said. “This is the best country in the world."

The citizenship candidates aboard the Taney came from such countries as Cameroon, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, India, Kenya, Liberia, Nepal, South Africa, South Korea, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.

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Ezequiel Morales Chavez, from Mexico, celebrates after becoming a citizen with his sons, Alex, left, and Adam Morales, right. They live in Crofton. The naturalization ceremony took place aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day for 19 citizens, who hail from 17 different countries.
Ezequiel Morales Chavez, from Mexico, celebrates after becoming a citizen with his sons, Alex, left, and Adam Morales, right. They live in Crofton. The naturalization ceremony took place aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney on Veterans Day for 19 citizens, who hail from 17 different countries. (Amy Davis)

Ezequiel Morales Chavez, who was born in Mexico, applied for citizenship in February after poring over test materials for about a year, he said.

The Crofton resident often studied for the test during free moments at his job as a landscaper. When his work took him to government facilities, he recalled feeling compelled to pause and watch as the American flag was raised each morning.

During the Veterans Day citizenship ceremony, Morales Chavez made sure his outfit honored those moments. An American flag pin gleamed on his lapel and similarly-themed socks peeked from below the hem of his pants — blue and white stars on the left foot and red and white stripes on the right.

“I wanted to be presentable being sworn in," he said. “You want to show some class.”

Morales Chavez also wore a gray suit, the same he wore to his citizenship test. The suit was his good luck charm, he said.

After the ceremony concluded, his sons Adam and Alex ran up to congratulate him. He hopes his family will have more opportunities now that he is a citizen, he said.

“I owe a lot to this country,” Morales Chavez said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman contributed to this article.

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