Model Citizen: One Airman’s Journey to U.S. Citizenship
By Staff Sgt. Sean Campbell, 142nd Wing
/ Published March 15, 2021
PORTLAND, Ore. --
Senior Airman Raul Reyes is part of the Fatality Search and Recovery Team for the 142nd Force Support Squadron at Portland Air National Guard Base (PANGB), Oregon.
Reyes joined the Oregon Air National Guard in 2017, two years after becoming a permanent resident of Oregon.
He came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, along with his family. He and his family settled in Oregon where Reyes attended school, and later, college. He later met and married his wife, who is also an Airman at PANGB.
For Reyes, joining the military to serve the state and country he grew up in has been a dream of his.
“The first time I ever put my nametape on was at basic. It was such a great feeling,” said Reyes. “Not everyone serves, and it’s not for everyone, but I’m glad to have this experience.”
Reyes’ journey to join the military was met with some unique challenges, however. Not long after he enlisted, a new policy came into effect, changing the naturalization process for military members.
Under the old law, military members were cleared to leave for basic training, provided their security clearance request had been submitted, and in order to gain U.S. citizenship, members only had to serve one day.
Now, under the new policy, Reyes and other prospective military members seeking citizenship are required to have a completed background check before leaving for basic training, and in order to become citizens, they needed to have served no less than one year in the U.S. Military.
The change in policy pushed Reyes’ basic training date from October 2017 to August 2018.
Reyes’ plan was to join the Air Force right out of high school, but his plans were put on hold as he waited for his security clearance to process.
“I worked, went to college, and became a permanent resident, but I still wanted to serve and give back,” said Reyes.
In November 2020, Reyes finally obtained his citizenship, marking the end of a near two-decade journey.
“I've considered myself an American from the first day I stepped foot on American soil almost 20 years ago,” said Reyes. “I've pledged allegiance to our flag since elementary school and will continue to do so. It's a great feeling to finally and officially be an American.”