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Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Hosts Naturalization Ceremony

The site of the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi was the site today of a ceremony welcoming 56 new citizens of the United States.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky was there and has this story.

On the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield hosted a naturalization ceremony on the lawn in front of the visitor center.

Ted Hillmer is superintendent of the park.  After sharing some facts about the battle, he explained to the crowd why the battlefield was the perfect site for the ceremony.

"One of the not-so-well-known facts is how many of those who fought that day were foreign-born immigrants.  Over 50 percent of the Union forces were foreign-born, and between ten and 20 percent of the Confederate forces were foreign-born, he said.

Ramon Barios came to the United States from Mexico 14 years ago to have a better life.

"Definitely better opportunities--better pay in this country," he said.

Although he said it was a long process to get to this point, it was all worth it.

Those becoming citizens came from 24 countries, including, Syria, Iraq, Canada, Somalia and the Ukraine.

After being introduced to the crowd, they raised their right hands and took the oath of citizenship.

Hawa Bailey, who registered to vote immediately after the ceremony inside the visitor center, came to the U.S. as a refugee from war-torn Sierra Leone.  She said she worked hard to get to this point so she could have the same rights and privileges U.S. citizens have, including a better career.

"I have degrees, but salary--I can't do nothing about that because say 'citizen only,' she said.

Sofia Sanders came to the U.S. from Ecuador.

"It feels great.  I'm happy.  It's a great experience.  I just can't explain how it feels," she said.

She said she didn’t plan to become a U.S. citizen when she came here and married an American, but she knew that’s what would be best for her children.

The ceremony was presided over by Douglas Harpool, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Missouri.