PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By Marc Arakaki
The United States of America welcomed dozens of its newest citizens today.
98 were granted U.S. citizenship at a special naturalization ceremony on board the U.S.S. Missouri at Pearl Harbor. Over 150 friends and family were also on hand to witness the event.
The youngest to receive their citizenship was Terrance Lam. Lam is 18 years old and a 2013 graduate of Moanalua High School.
"I'm really glad to be here serving the country in any means," said Lam who moved to Hawai`i from Hong Kong six years ago. "When I first came here, I didn't really feel that much of a difference because I know Hawaii is a very diverse state. Wherever I go, I always see Chinese and Asians and I can also interact with people from different cultures."
The Honorable Susan Oki Mollway presided over the ceremony which featured two other guest speakers: U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Bret Muilenburg and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. Hirono talked about how she is also an immigrant having moved to the U.S. from Japan as a child.
"Like a number of you, I came to this country not knowing a word of English. And like many of you, I left everything that I ever understood of the world behind when I came to this country," Hirono said to the group.
Maroi Ngirmidol is from Palau and came to the U.S. as a young boy. He was one of six honored today who serves in the U.S. military.
"It's been an honor to serve – to protect the freedom of all of us and it's an honor to become a U.S. citizen," Ngirmidol, who served in the U.S. Army for four years, said. "I keep ties with Palau – I keep my culture from Palau strong…but I'm a local boy too."
Today's ceremony at the U.S.S. Missouri was one of more than 100 throughout the nation from July 1-5, welcoming more than 7,800 new U.S. citizens. Ceremonies spanned across the country from the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.
ON THE U.S.S. MISSOURI
74 year old Fausto Rungden was the oldest person naturalized today and is not too familiar with the "Mighty Mo."
"I'm very happy because this is my first time to come to this place," Rungden said.
Lam is familiar with the history of the U.S.S. Missouri but has not been on site very often.
"This is the second time I've been here to the U.S.S. Missouri but this is the first time I am here as a [U.S.] citizen," Lam said. "[Today is] the day before July fourth so I feel really good about being here as a citizen."
PLANS FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY
Spending their first Fourth of July as U.S. citizens will be a special one. Ngirmidol and Rungden will be spending time with family while barbecuing. Lam will tour the island with his relatives. But like many, Lam wishes to thank those that mean the most to him.
"I really thank my parents and all of the speakers here. They gave a really wonderful speech," Lam said. "[I'd like to thank] also my mentors and friends who supported me along the way."