I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America...
The first time I heard the Pledge of Allegiance, I was probably 7-years-old and attending my very first sleep-away camp in Jaffrey, N.H. Every morning, before breakfast, the entire camp would gather around the flagpole and the pledge would be recited after Old Glory was hoisted.
I recall being acutely aware the words being recited meant a lot to the rest of the campers. But for me, a kid from the Dominican Republic, it held no real significance. Yet, after a month of the same routine, I learned the words that I never uttered out loud.
Flash forward more than 23 years, on May 2, 2019 – while holding my hand over my heart – I gave my pledge of allegiance to the United States. I had just given the oath to become a naturalized citizen.
Coming to America
My love affair with the United States started well before I could even understand the meaning and magnitude of what it meant to be an American. With my family, I had traveled to the U.S. since I was a baby – extensively visiting most of the East Coast.
We visited all but one of the original colonies – sorry, Georgia, I will get to you at some point. We traveled to the region’s most famous landmarks, learning about the people who lived and died to start the American Experiment. Through it all, I fell in love with the country’s history, its culture and yes, its flaws.
When it came time to decide whether I would be staying in the Dominican Republic for college, or follow in my father’s footsteps and get my degree in the U.S., it was not much of a choice. My dream was to study in the U.S. – and I did just that.
In 2006, as a 19-year-old college freshman, I moved to Colchester, Vt., to attend St. Michael’s College – a stark difference from the Caribbean weather I was accustomed to – on a four-year student visa. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communications with a double minor in history and global studies.
Staying in America – and becoming a citizen
After college, I got a job as a reporter for the Rutland Herald, a local newspaper in rural Vermont. The paper sponsored my H1-B work visa and for three years I wrote and reported on the local happenings of more than a dozen small towns.
I fell in love with Vermont, but by 2013, I wanted to experience more of the U.S. I got a job with Fox News Latino – the sister website to www.5yt2.net – and have been with the company ever since.
In those years, I got married and through it, I was able to apply for permanent residency and eventually my citizenship. It was a nerve-racking experience with the most amazing outcome.
What it means to be a (new) American
While standing with my fellow new Americans waiting to give the oath of citizenship, I became quite emotional listening to the supervisor presiding over the ceremony – particularly when she said that no one understands the sacrifices that we have had to make to become new Americans.
It is true. While I have been privileged enough to be able to visit my family back home – and for them to come to visit me – I miss them every day. I have missed births, milestone celebrations and deaths as I pursue my American Dream.
That said, I wouldn’t change the journey I have undertaken to get me where I am.
My story from here on out is threaded into the fabric of this nation. I am proud to be an immigrant to this amazing nation. I am proud to call myself an American.