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Ceremony Honors New Citizens From 40 Countries

Flag Day celebrated at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Yamileth R. Blandin is very happy that her husband is now a United States citizen. Even more special is the fact that he became a citizen at the annual ceremony held at the place where she works — George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. She has worked as a custodian there for the past three years.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time. I wanted to be 100 percent American," said Blandin's husband, Mario Rafael Ventura. "I hope in three more years to make everything complete."

Ventura was referring to the amount of time remaining before Blandin can become a citizen. Their children, Stephanie and Mario, Jr., are both United States citizens.

Except for the wind, which knocked over band equipment and flags, the weather was just right for a Flag Day ceremony. This annual ceremony, which is co-sponsored by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service and The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, bestowed citizenship on pre-selected applicants from 40 countries. Men and women from Afghanistan to Vietnam, from Bangladesh to Taiwan, from Columbia to Sierra Leone, came together to say their first Pledge of Allegiance as United States citizens.

Ellen Walton, regent, The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, greeted the crowd and The United States Armed Forces Color Guard presented the colors before the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner." Robert Schofield, assistant district director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, led the Motion for the Oath.

"I present to you 100 applicants representing 40 countries. Each one has been interviewed and found eligible for naturalization," Schofield said. He went on to say that he has five different nationalities in his family and the things that they've accomplished.

"All things are possible; that's what makes this country great," he said.

Phyllis Howard, district director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, thanked the Mount Vernon Ladies and said that it was "an honor for us to be here." She then administered the oath of citizenship.

Richard Kusserow, president, George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, spoke about the importance of the flag and led the crowd in The Pledge of Allegiance.

Members of The United States Marine Band performed "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful" and then finally the moment the group had been waiting for — the bestowal of naturalization certificates by Howard, Schofield, Kusserow and Walton.