ELSA, Texas (KVEO) – For one Vietnam veteran, the path to citizenship was a 53-year long journey.
When Ruben Sanchez was called to serve, he complied. He quotes, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address.
“LB Johnson took over and he started drafting the people, the young guys like myself. I was just 20 then,” said Sanchez.
His sense of humor hides what being in Vietnam was like, joking that he went to have a picnic.
“Fui a tener un picnic, por eso,” he laughs. But the Purple Heart he received will give you an idea of the terror he faced in Vietnam.
However, one thing he didn’t receive upon returning: his U.S. Citizenship.
He recalls a Vietnam War-era agreement where a U.S. Citizenship was promised to him and many others.
“They promised, if they go to fight, they were gonna get their citizenship and they lied to them,” said Sanchez as he explained that he had heard of veterans from Mexico that were deported after coming back from the war.
Local military supporter and veterans advocate Mario Ybarra says there may have not been enough support for veterans like Sanchez in getting the process going.
“The process can be quite intimidating, as perhaps a lot of people see it that way, but that in itself shouldn’t be a hinderance because it’s basically just a matter of following good instruction and paying attention to details and having the needed documents for processing,” said Ybarra.
53 years after returning from Vietnam, Sanchez can finally call himself an American citizen.
Sanchez took his oath of allegiance in the city of Harlingen at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office, where he once again swore to support and defend.
His plans for the rest of his days as an American citizen are simpler. “Just behave, be good, keep doing good things,” he said.
Patrick Roberts, Veterans Outreach Director for the office of Vicente Gonzalez, was there to present Sanchez with a certificate of special recognition for his services, an American flag that flew over the Nation’s Capital, and a 50th anniversary Vietnam war commemorative lapel pin.
“I also want to congratulate you for receiving your citizenship today. It’s been long overdue and it’s something that you should have received, and you should have been a citizen long, long before this,” said Roberts.
Ybarra says the application process for citizenship can be started on the USCIS website.