Friday, January 31, 2014

A Courageous and Resilient Pledge

Matthew Lammers became a naturalized U.S. citizen over thirty years ago in 1983, but it wasn't until January 31, 2014, when he actually participated in a naturalization ceremony that he can actually remember and tell his children about.  From my observation, Matt loved every moment of the experience.  Back in 1983 he was a one-year-old baby who was born in Seoul, South Korea and immigrated to the United States after being adopted by a family in Kansas. Today, Matt is married and was at the ceremony supporting his wife who was sworn-in as a naturalized U.S. citizen.  From what I have read about Matt, he feels uncomfortable being referred to as a "hero" so I will respect his wishes here.  Instead, I will refer to him as courageous and resilient.

I first noticed Matt at today's ceremony when the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service officer was asking if anyone in the audience would lead in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Most candidates for naturalization are typically nervous or shy and today was no exception.  None of the candidates volunteered to do so.  On the other hand, Matt seemed thrilled with the opportunity.  He explained to the officer that he was a retired Staff Sergeant from the U.S. army and had served in two tours in Iraq.  After listening to him I couldn't think of a better candidate to lead in the recitation of the Pledge. 

Here is Matt leading the 46 naturalization applicants along with their families and friends in the Pledge of Allegiance:

Being curious about Matt I looked up his story online and found that there had been numerous articles written about him.  I learned that he was injured in Iraq on June 10, 2007 when a Humvee he was in drove over an explosively formed projectile (EFP). Matt became a triple amputee, losing both his legs and his left arm as a result of that blast.  I learned that he kept a positive outlook and attitude in spite of these injuries. I also found out that he received two Purple Hearts for his service.  Matt is the epitome of courage and resilience.

At naturalization ceremonies there is always time set aside after the oath is administered for newly naturalized citizens and their loved ones to speak openly about their road to becoming a U.S. citizen.  At this ceremony only two individuals spoke out.  One of them was Matt.

The other individual was sitting immediately behind Matt and was a man who fled Iraq and sought refuge in the United States after being shot multiple times by the military.  Watching this man speak and Matt intently listening was a treat.  

As the ceremony came to a close, the presiding judge made a point to thank Matt for his service on behalf of the United States.  Every naturalization ceremony is special in its own right, but today's ceremony was made even more so by Matt's presence. 

I feel extremely fortunate that I attended this ceremony and had the opportunity to meet a hero courageous and resilient human being that we should all admire.