The Corner

Military and Citizenship

A reader comments:

I don’t know that I need to say this, but I should point out that I am a Democrat, although I thoroughly enjoy reading the Corner.  While I don’t always agree with everything you guys (and gals) say, I often find your debates enlightening and well reasoned.

Anyway, regarding the military path to citizenship issue, I must say that I was somewhat perplexed by the editorial in this morning’s Washington Post and the ensuing debate.  What a lot of people may not realize (and the editorial only alluded to) is that individuals with Green Cards (i.e. non-citizens) can and do serve in the military.  As a former Marine Corps officer (1986 – 1991), I served with a number of Marines who were either current Green Card holders, or had entered the Marine Corps as non-citizens but subsequently gained their citizenship.  Many Green Card holders elect this route since it is an excellent basis they justifiably cite to when they later apply for permanent U.S. citizenship.  I do not know if Green Card holders can still serve, but they were ably serving when I was in the USMC. 

One of my favorite stories that I often tell people is that when I was a young 1st Lt. serving as a Platoon Commander at Camp Pendleton I met with each of my Marines when I assumed command.  During my one-on-one meetings I asked them the exact same question: what is your most important goal for the year ahead?  I had one young Corporal who literally could have served as a poster recruit for the USMC.  All of his promotions were meritorious, his uniform was always inspection ready and he was a remarkable young leader.  Did I mention he fought in Desert Storm?  His answer to my key question?  “Sir, my most important goal for this year is that I want to get my US citizenship.”  I about fell out of my chair when he said that!  I had no idea at the time that non-citizens could serve ‘their’ country.

John Derbyshire is missing the point when he says that “To serve in the military should be a privilege of citizenship, not a chore or a penance on the way to citizenship.”  Non-citizens are already serving and my experience was that they were some of the best Marines we had.  All of them, who came nations with corrupt and/or incompetent  governments, realized the beauty and greatness that is America.  They weren’t serving as a chore — they were serving because they truly wanted to be a part of a great country.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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