It was a tight squeeze and an emotional moment—but none of the eight people who became citizens of the United States last week seemed to mind at all.

The ceremony took place at the newly opened Museum of the American Military Family in Tijeras, next door to Molly’s bar.

Circe Olson Woessner, executive director of the museum, said the space was formerly inhabited by Molly and her family.

The citizenship ceremony was for military veterans and spouses.

Anthony Derieux is an immigration services officer, and explained that immigrants may serve in the U.S. armed forces. He said that during wartime, an immigrant who served honorably may apply for citizenship after a day of service; during peacetime, that is after a year.

“For people to serve our country when they’re not a citizen—that to me is just amazing,” Derieux said. “That’s an awesome deal for them, a huge responsibility.”

Guest speaker Mehreen Naqvi-Sherazee is a military spouse and immigrant.

Naqvi-Sherazee was emotional during her short talk, explaining, “I am a muslim American.” She was born in Iran of Pakistani parents who were university professors.

She has lived in Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bahrain, Oman, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

She met her husband in high school when his father was stationed in Oman, and the two met again as adults in New Zealand; the family has been at Kirtland Air Force Base since 2013.

The opportunity to become a citizen of the United States is a dream for people around the world, Naqvi-Sherazee said, introducing the new citizens, who were from countries including Mexico and Holland.

The ceremony included the children of the families present, who handed out bouquets of flowers, small gifts, a certificate of citizenship and a framed memento containing the iconic photo, along with sand from the beach at Iwo Jima, which Derieux had collected when he visited the site of the famous World War II flag-raising there.

Pietra Ledesma is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, and said becoming a citizen of the U.S. “is a great opportunity to make my dreams come true.”

Another woman from Holland was there with her three children, who beamed with smiles.

“Really exciting!” exclaimed her daughter when asked what she thought about her mom becoming a citizen.

“I’m proud because she came here and now she’s a citizen,” her son chipped in.

“It’s something we should always do eventually when we come over here and have family here,” she said. “I think we should be part of it.”

Two military veterans and four military spouses became citizens last week.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.