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NEWS | July 14, 2014

'Sworn on the Fourth of July': Langley Airman becomes U.S. citizen in White House ceremony

By Senior Airman Jason J. Brown 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The United States of America is historically hailed as "the land of opportunity." Some U.S. citizens may "take that for granted" - not U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kamar Harris.

Harris, a 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuel maintenance systems apprentice at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, joined 24 other U.S. Service members to swear the Oath of Allegiance before President Barack Obama during the White House's naturalization ceremony, held - appropriately - on Independence Day.

The Toronto native's journey to becoming an American crosses the North American continent. His parents both immigrated to Canada - his mother from Jamaica, and his father from Barbados. As a child, he travelled with his father to Bermuda when his father took a job there. He said his multi-cultural background and travel at a young age helped him become a "global citizen."

After leaving Bermuda, Harris spent several years living with family in Florida, where he said he "fell in love" with the U.S., and began to see the wealth of opportunity for which America is known.

"Living in Florida, I learned about the history and innovation of this country, and really loved it," he said.

Harris planned on settling in Canada, but couldn't resolve a future for himself without the U.S. as part of the plan.

"I adapted to this country. I originally wanted to move back to Canada to pursue opportunities there, but it would be like starting over," he said. "I'd moved around so much and saw such a great deal of opportunity here that I decided to stay."

Without a plan in Canada, Harris began researching career opportunities that would give him a chance to travel, one of his passions.

"The world is such a big place, and I want to see as much of it as I can," Harris said, smoothing his Airman Battle Uniform. "I found the Air Force, and the chance to see the world and be part of the U.S. culture became a reality."

While he enlisted as a civil engineering Airman in October 2013, Harris said he dreamed of becoming a pilot. However, he is also interested in becoming a linguist, or a politician, or even starting a career in the National Basketball Association.

"I really don't know exactly what I want to do, but that's kind of the beauty of the U.S.," Harris said. "I'm still young and have all kinds of options here."

After enlisting, Harris was told the route to reaching his goals in the U.S. required him to become an American citizen - something he "never imagined would happen." He began the application process in February and by June, he received the invitation to the White House.

The opportunity to swear the Oath of Allegiance to President Obama was a "breathtaking" experience, he said, literally in the case of a fellow Airman, who was so overcome with excitement he could barely speak when greeting the commander-in-chief.

"I'd never even imagined I'd get a chance to meet him, let alone become a citizen when he was there," Harris said.

The profoundness of the moment - swearing the oath before the president at the White House on Independence Day - was not lost on Harris.

"There's no better place and no better time than to join this nation than on the Fourth of July at the White House," he said, smiling. "Becoming a citizen is definitely putting me in a better position to achieve my dreams. I'm not even from here and already got to meet the President of the United States."

Whatever the future holds for Harris, he said he's fortunate to finally achieve a dream he developed in his childhood, and vowed to not pass on the array of new opportunities available to him, both in and out of uniform.

"There's so much good in this country, and I'm thankful to be part of it and get to take advantage of the possibilities here," Harris said. "It's a sigh of relief, really. I never thought I would actually become an American.

"I thought it was going to be a dream forever, but now that dream has come true."