Maria Eleoner Cadd achieved two dreams Friday.
She sang the national anthem in front of a large audience — at the same time she became a U.S. citizen.
“I had no idea I would sing it for my own taking,” a beaming Cadd, 38, said, surrounded by her husband and in-laws.
Cadd was one of 35 immigrants representing 18 countries who became naturalized citizens at a special ceremony at the Vancouver Barracks parade grounds.
It was the second such annual ceremony in Southwest Washington and one of more than 20 naturalization ceremonies held nationwide by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Parks Service.
Education and job opportunities were a theme with the speakers, as well as embracing the United States history and heritage.
Cadd came to the United States after marrying her American husband in the Philippines in 2006. The two met in the 1990s when they both served on the board of Christian Youth Theater in the Philippines. Her husband was a missionary.
The couple moved to the Pacific Northwest and settled in Newberg, Ore. “This is now my home,” she said.
Cadd said she’s always been moved by “The Star Spangled Banner.” After reading up on American history as part of her path to citizenship, Cadd learned about the War of 1812 as well as other battles, and was struck by the realization, “they were fighting for me,” she said.
To sing the anthem, Cadd said she couldn’t focus on the words because she was too afraid she would cry.
“I had to practice a lot because I would always choke up,” she said.
Following the singing of the anthem, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler addressed the audience, congratulating the candidates and encouraging them to take advantage of job and educational opportunities. Growing up in a working-class Hispanic family, she said, her parents emphasized the importance of the American dream.
“This is the first step,” Herrera Beutler said. “Now, you’re beginning another one.”
At ceremony’s end, candidates went to the front to accept their certificates, shake the congresswoman’s hand and receive a miniature American flag. Then, they smiled for cameras and waved their flags.
Frank Appiah, 35, from Ghana, was handed his flag by his 6-year-old daughter, Amaya. She and her mom, Appiah’s wife, were there to cheer Appiah on in his long-awaited citizenship.
Now 35, Appiah moved to Oregon when he was 21 after finishing school in Ghana and finding that there were no jobs. He had extended family in Corvallis, Ore., so he eventually came to the area. There, he got married and his family settled in Beaverton, Ore.
He said becoming a citizen simply meant more opportunities.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s the greatest thing, knowing there are no limits.”
Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; email@example.com; 360-735-4516.