He never imagined leaving Haiti four years ago. He never imagined putting on a U.S. Army uniform three years ago. Pfc. Guy A. Eugene, mechanic, 529th Network Support Company, deployed from Fort Sill, Okla., attached to 377th Theater Sustainment Command also never would have imagined that on May 20, he would raise his right hand and become a U.S. citizen on the U.S. Embassy steps in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
“Today is the first [naturalization] ceremony in Haiti and it is fitting that it takes place in May, because May is national military appreciation month,” said Mari-Carmen Jordan, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services deputy district director for Latin American and Caribbean region. “As you can see, USCIS brings immigration services to the military wherever they serve.
Pius Bannis, director of USCIS’ field office in Haiti, presided during the ceremony. Eugene became the first member of the military in to receive U.S. citizenship in Haiti.
“To me, this ceremony is a formality,” Eugene said. “Once I was allowed to wear this uniform, I felt part of the [U.S.] already. I feel like I am American.”
Eugene, who deployed in support of Operation Unified Response, was born and raised in Port-au-Prince. He came from a good family and regularly vacationed with his family in Canada during the summer. He had his own business, similar to a Home Depot, and was comfortable with his life.
“But there were kidnappings [occurring] and [people] burned down my business,” he said. “My wife got scared and asked me to move.”
Eugene was 36 years old when he made the decision to move to Hillside, N.J.
“I never really wanted to move to the [U.S.] because I was living pretty well here [in Port-au-Prince],” Eugene said.
Eugene’s wife immigrated to the U.S. almost 12 years ago. Eugene, who was not ready to leave his business and stable life in Haiti, stayed behind. He said living in two different countries didn’t stop his wife from visiting him often.
With her assistance, the couple filed for Eugene’s immigration to the U.S. On Jan. 21, 2006, Eugene immigrated to the country. Just over a year later, he joined the U.S Army.
“When I was young, I always talked with friends about [the Marines] as something I’d like to do,” Eugene said. “Everyone in Haiti knows the Marines. A lot of kids, when they see the Marines, say when they grow up they’d like to do [Marine training]. I thought, I’d like to see how [the training] is, see if I can do it.”
Eugene said he decided that he wanted to be part of the fight for freedom in Iraq and because he saw Army Soldiers in the news frequently, decided to join the Army and not the Marines.
He added that his wife wasn’t thrilled with his decision because she was afraid for him, but that his parents were very happy for him.
“Many Haitian people seem scared you’re going to get killed when you go to Iraq or Afghanistan,” Eugene said. “But my wife is getting used to [the idea].”
Although it wasn’t ideal for him, Eugene’s first deployment brought him back home. He said it wasn’t how he wanted to come home. He wanted to come back on vacation, not to assist in humanitarian efforts because an earthquake devastated his native country.
“I didn’t want to come back under these circumstances,” Eugene said.
In the four years Eugene had been gone, Port-au-Prince changed a lot, Eugene said, especially after the earthquake.
“When I first got here, it was hard for me to even find my way back to the embassy,” Eugene said. “I had to ask a driver how he would get there. After that, things started coming back.”
Eugene spent an evening with his family, who still lives in Port-au-Prince.
Once he returns to the U.S., Eugene said he plans on earning a college degree. “I’m going to try and get my degree in accounting most likely,” Eugene said. “It’s what we do in my family.”
Eugene said he may also reenlist, but that is still three years away. “My wife is ok with the [Army] for right now, but she doesn’t want me to reenlist,” Eugene said. “So I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
As the ceremony came to a close, the U.S. gained not just a citizen, but a proud American.
“Today America becomes more than your home, it is your country,” Jordan said. “America is thankful for your faithful patriotism and honorable service to this great country. May you share the great opportunities this nation offers and may your hard work reward you.”
Story by Pvt. Samantha Hall