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'This was such a great moment'

Alex Doty • Aug 2, 2018 at 9:00 AM

The flight deck of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Escanaba served as the stage for a U.S. citizenship ceremony Wednesday morning.

It involved 18 individuals from 14 countries.

The event was the first-ever naturalization ceremony aboard a Coast Guard cutter, officials said. 

Officials from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) joined Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area; Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb; Ottawa County Commissioner Roger Bergman; state Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township; and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, in welcoming the new Americans — who came from Burma, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Norway, the Philippines, Russia, Syria, Thailand and Vietnam.

RELATED: Photo Gallery: Naturalization ceremony aboard the Escanaba

“It was a wonderful ceremony, it was very emotional,” said Ahmad Jeddeeni, a Grand Rapids resident originally from Syria.

Having spent the past six years in the U.S., Jeddeeni said he applied to be a U.S. citizen in February.

“The process to become a U.S. citizen is lengthy, and it’s not easy to even come to America in the first place,” he said. “This was such a great moment for me.”

Jeddeeni noted that the venue for Wednesday’s ceremony — on the deck of a Coast Guard ship, with Lake Michigan and Grand Haven’s piers and lighthouses in the background — made it even more memorable.

“This is great,” he said. “I feel very lucky that I got to be in this ceremony.”

Loutit District Library Director John Martin, who helped coordinate the ceremony, noted that the number of new Americans was smaller than the library’s typical naturalization ceremonies due to space constraints on the Escanaba’s flight deck. Still, Martin said he was pleased with the event.

“I cannot stress how thankful we are to the USCIS and the Coast Guard for allowing us to host this ceremony on the ship,” he said. “Everything worked out great.”

Martin said he is hopeful that there will be future events like the one Wednesday.

“I’m hoping that we can do it on a Coast Guard ship every year during the Coast Guard Festival,” he said. “And I’m hoping that maybe we can do something bigger at the new Waterfront Stadium.”

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