Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Embassy bombing propelled Kenyan to join U.S. military

by Michael S. Humphreys Special to The Gazette - Published: March 9, 2014

Fort Carson honored 15 new citizens in February during the post's first public naturalization ceremony in 10 years.

Soldiers, airmen, family members and retirees - in all, 135 naturalized citizens - were among those honored during the ceremony at Fort Carson.

"Thank you for taking this step and for doing all that you do for your family, your community, and for your nation," said Col. David Grosso, Fort Carson garrison commander.

Pfc. Geoffery Alanya with the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, said he didn't join the Army with the intentions of becoming a U.S. citizen.

He was growing up an athlete in Nairobi when his best friend's mother, remembered as the Kenyan Rose, became the last documented death as a result of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya.

"My goal was to step up and do something," Alanya said. "I didn't want to just sit on the fence when other guys are stepping up to fight terrorism.

"I wanted to be on the front line. The Army was my way of getting up and doing what I have to do."

Fort Carson Army Community Services teams up with the military outreach program of the Denver office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to find ambitious and inspired young service members such as Alanya, and help put them on track to citizenship said Jean McClintock, relocation and readiness advisor for Fort Carson.

McClintock said Fort Carson talks with unit personnel administrators to find qualified applicants from the military community and works with immigration officials to assist applicants with administrative actions and to schedule testing and interviews.

In 1999, at age 10, Airman 1st Class Andreas Chong from the Air Force Academy's financial management office, moved to Oregon from Ecuador to live with family.

Chong said citizenship wasn't his goal when he joined the Air Force two years ago, either.

He said the Air Force offered him opportunities to further the education he started at the University of Oregon, and he felt he needed to offer something back to the community.

"Joining the Air Force just went hand in hand," Chong said. "I've been given the privilege to be a U.S. citizen, and I feel I should give back."

Alanya and Chong were both naturalized at Fort Carson last year during one of the post's naturalization ceremonies held on the third Thursday's monthly.

McClintock said deployments and other training and operations often prevent much participation at monthly ceremonies, so Fort Carson and immigration officials elected to honor naturalized citizens from previous years with this recognition ceremony.

"We thought, let's do this on a grander scale because it really is a big deal," McClintock said.

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