published Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

150 become U.S. citizens in Chattanooga (with video)

Madelyn Sanchez, of Cuba, shows her appreciation as she receives an American flag at Tuesday's Naturalization ceremony at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Kelly Puckett, right, constituent services representative from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's office, gives paperwork to new citizens.
Madelyn Sanchez, of Cuba, shows her appreciation as she receives an American flag at Tuesday's Naturalization ceremony at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Kelly Puckett, right, constituent services representative from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's office, gives paperwork to new citizens.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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  • More than 100 new citizens welcomed
    More than 100 people took the oaths to become naturalized United States citizens at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Tuesday.

For Mary N. Triolo, of Peru, it was for her family and husband.

For George Ralph Kukubor, of Ghana, it was the opportunity to improve his life.

For Valentina Cheban, of Moldova, it was the chance to enjoy freedoms and vote.

Though every person may have a different reason why, they all shared the same end goal -- to become an American citizen.

Tuesday, Triolo, Kukubor and Cheban joined nearly 150 others as they took the oath of allegiance to become citizens of the United States at Chattanooga National Cemetery.

As they sat outside near a pavilion, they waited patiently for their moment. Their names were called. They identified themselves for the last time as citizens of their birth countries.

And then they formally renounced those countries.

It was a moment 12 years in the making for Kukubor.

Though he had heard about the United States since childhood, Kukubor was encouraged to come to America through business associates.

"With intelligence and endurance, one should be able to achieve it," he said of becoming a citizen. "I feel great. I feel free. I can improve upon my life."

Cheban, 26, and her brother Dorel Kondryuk, 18, took their citizenship test in September, though they came to America in 2000. Cheban said becoming a citizen was a day she has been looking forward to.

"We're here because we love this country and we're thankful to have the opportunity to come here," Cheban said. "I definitely want to vote and have the same rights. And opportunities of work and stuff. And the food."

"I was waiting for you to say that," Kondryuk said.

U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice addressed the new citizens.

"Along with the rights and privileges of citizenship come responsibilities," he said. "This country did not become what it is today by citizens just enjoying their rights."

He encouraged the new Americans to vote and to make the most out of the opportunities their new country provides.

Triolo, 45, arrived in the United States seven years ago after falling in love with her husband, and said she is lucky to be here.

"It's exciting," she said. "Like the judge says, it carries new responsibilities. For me, it's a new promise to try and make my best for the future -- for my career, for my kids. To teach them to love this country."

Contact staff writer Rachel Bunn at rbunn@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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