Miss. naturalization ceremony recognizes 75 new Americans - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Miss. naturalization ceremony recognizes 75 new Americans

PETAL, MS (WDAM) -

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett presented citizenship certificates to 75 people from 31 different countries at Petal High School Thursday morning.

"This is actually the first time we've ever done a naturalization ceremony in the Southern district anywhere other than a federal courthouse," Starrett said. 

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and said he jumped at the opportunity to attend the naturalization ceremony, after having federal judges tell him how emotional they can be.

"I think this is one of the most profound moments in the lives of these 75 new Americans," Wicker said. 

Newly naturalized citizen and U.S. Airman First Class Samuel Mang Siang Lal agreed.

"It's probably one of the proudest moments of my life to just have that certificate in my hands," Lal said. "Just to be able to look at it."

Lal was born in Burma, now Myanmar, and moved to the U.S. in 2006. He was one of four U.S. military members naturalized in Thursday's ceremony. Lal said joining the military was the first time he really felt he was a part of the U.S.

"They make this country great, and I just wanted to be a part of it," he said.

After 10 years living in the U.S. and about two years serving in the Air Force, Lal began his citizenship process earlier this year. He said he was excited and overwhelmed to finally become a citizen.

"I'm too excited to like to be able to like express it in words," he said. "It's just...I really am just excited and proud."

Lal was one of many of the newest U.S. citizens to get emotional hearing "God Bless America" sung during the ceremony.

Wicker said the song has special significance for him personally and is also particularly appropriate for a naturalization ceremony.

"I just think it's good to remember that 'God Bless America' was written by a Russian immigrant who was a naturalized citizen," Wicker said. "Irving Berlin- a Russian Jew who came to the United States and wrote a song that unites us as people of all faiths, and that we sang, and I have sung, during times of great crisis." 

"I'm very proud to be a part of this great nation," Lal said.

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