The annual International Festival kicks off this weekend in Lawton. It celebrates the cultural diversity right here in Lawton/Ft. Sill. America welcomed 29 new citizens in a ceremony on Friday in a wonderfully symbolic start to the festival.
7News reporter Lindsay Vocht was able to spend the day with one of the new U.S. citizens. Former Canadian citizen Leroy Minion, as an American soldier salutes the flag every day, but Friday was his first time saluting Old Glory as an American citizen.
As a native of Canada, he joined the Army, at age 17, the first chance he got after September 11th. "I noticed that America came together and I wanted to be a part of that group, I wanted to be on that team," said Minion. "Regardless of whether you're a Republican or Democrat, you still love America." He says it's all about patriotism here in the U.S.
So, he deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne and says he's proud of a picture of himself that made it into an Army journal. But, now, he has a very different job. He's the personal driver for his Brigade Commander - and she's a strong supporter of his becoming a citizen. "There's no other, more powerful way that he can continue to give back to this country than by becoming a citizen," says Colonel Mary Baker.
Support from his co-workers also pushed Minion along. One of them helped him study his practice test. And, his help was worthwhile since Minion has passed his test and is now becoming a citizen. "I just have a really good feeling today," he said. And, tomorrow at work will be a little different for him. "I think when I say the soldiers creed it will be different because now I am an American soldier," said Minion.
He'll be a proud American soldier. "To say that I'm an American ... it holds a lot of weight."