GARDINER — In the shadow of the Roosevelt Arch on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, 42 people from 23 countries met the requirements, took the oath and were granted US citizenship on Thursday.
“You may have traveled to Yellowstone as a visitor, but you’re leaving today as a citizen,” said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenny. “It is a great honor to say ‘thank you' and ‘welcome to the United States of America.’”
For some of the 42 who have lived here for many years, it was a natural progression.
“Everybody keeps telling me I sound like an American, believe like an American, and wholeheartedly support everything this country stands for,” said Arto Pihlajisto, who came from Finland. “This has been a home for a long time and it was just time to make it official.”
For others, Thursday marked a new beginning where the sky's the limit.
When asked how her life would change after becoming a US citizen, Estonia-born Marina Anderson didn’t hesitate.
“It’s changed, because now I have options to find a greater job, so getting like a rocket in the sky,” she said, then laughed.
The final instructions from Judge Mark Carman, US Magistrate Judge, District of Wyoming, were simple - share the culture they brought with them.
“The diversity of America is represented by the diversity of the new citizens before me,” said Carman. “Experience which combines to give this country a richness of people found nowhere else on earth.”
“When you become a citizen, we’re not asking you to not be who you were yesterday or 10 minutes ago,” added Regional Director US Citizenship and Immigration Service, Kristi Goldinger. “Part of the beauty of America is what you have brought with you.”
And as the 42 watched the American flag and heard the national anthem for the first time as US citizens, the moment arrived.
“I grant the petition of the United States and will enter an order that each of these petitioners be granted United State citizenship,” said Carman. “Congratulations.”