Nine years ago, Yvette Bomo Kodjo came to the United States from Cote DíIvoire, a small republic in western Africa. This past Saturday, Flag Day, she became a citizen of the United States of America.
Kodjo received her naturalization certificate at a special Ceremony to Honor New Citizens at George Washington's Mount Vernon. The group of 100 new citizens represented 43 countries; some well known like India, Canada, Turkey and Peru; others, like Mauritania, Gambia and Sierra Leone, not as well known.
Kodjo, who lives in Alexandria, was there with her son and daughter, Isaac and Doreen Kodjo. She said that the naturalization process has taken about four years. Also receiving his naturalization certificate was Thuong Bach from Vietnam. Bach said that he came to the country seven years ago, and that he's currently living in Falls Church.
Jim Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon Estate, welcomed the group and then the United States Armed Forces Color Guard presented the colors. Everybody then stood for the citizen's new national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
Phyllis A. Howard, interim district director, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, gave the Motion for the Oath before turning it over to The Honorable Eduardo Aguirre, interim director, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. An immigrant himself, Aguirre spoke about the importance of becoming a citizen. After Richard P. Kusserow, president, George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, led The Pledge of Allegiance, The Honorable Gordon England, Deputy Secretary, The Department of Homeland Security spoke to the gathering.
And then came the part of the ceremony that everybody was waiting for, the bestowal of naturalization certificates. England, Aguirre, Howard and Rees, all took part in the process. The new citizens smiled and posed in front of Mount Vernon with their flag and certificates.
Laurel Carlson, a volunteer at Mount Vernon, was there for the third year in a row.
"I think it's a wonderful occasion. I volunteer for it every year," she said.