GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - For people born in America, the Fourth of July is a special time. Now, more than a dozen people in South Mississippi have even more reason to celebrate our country's day of independence next year.
Family and friends gathered at Gulfport's Federal Courthouse for a special ceremony that honored 23 of the newest citizens of the United States.
"Not only is it a naturalization ceremony, but in my judgment, it's a celebration. A celebration of what must be a very important day in the lives of our newest brothers and sisters," U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. said.
Some may have had the jitters, but it was an exciting and proud day for the people representing 14 different countries to now call themselves American.
"Oh my God, it's like an impossible dream has just come true," new citizen Yasmeen Samir Al Shirbini said.
After the new Americans took their oath of citizenship, they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The honor of being an American was evident for some of the new citizens who had been working on their citizenship for years.
"It's a great day. It's been 14 years in the making, so it's been a long, hard process, but I'm very, very proud and grateful," Ray Barria said with a smile on his face.
It may have been an emotional, long journey, but these new citizens say it was worth it for themselves and their families.
"Now, I think it's a good thing you know," Harmodio Santamaria said. "A good life for me and my family."
"It means a lot. To be a part of this country who gave me everything, and I'm ready to give back," Shirbini said.
"Once again, my congratulations to you and your family and friends. We are adjourned," Guirola said as he ended the ceremony.
In addition to the naturalization ceremony, some candidates were also approved for a name change.