By Ray Van Dusen
ABERDEEN – Fifty-three individuals from 23 countries were sworn in Friday as U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony by U.S. District Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson, who urged them to be active participants by voting and happily serving on juries as they mesh into their newly acquired citizenships.
“You’re the fresh minds and innovators we need to move this country forward,” said Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton, the main speaker. “Today, regardless of where you come from, we’re still the same. My sincere hope is you’ll be able to seek out your American dream…. We’re a land of opportunities, a land where anyone can become someone.”
A few of the countries represented included China, Nigeria, Syria, the Philippines and Thailand.
Paul Clever of Olive Branch not only came to see his wife, Nita, of Thai descent, naturalized, but also visited to take the opportunity to share a story of American determination outside of the Thomas G. Abernathy Federal Building after the ceremony where 10 American flags were on display. The flags were to honor 10 soldiers lost in February 1969 in the jungles of Laos during the Vietnam War. One of those soldiers was his father. Remains of the soldiers were not found and a single funeral was held to memorialize them, prompting a young Clever to vow to eventually bring his father’s remains home.
In 2012, he went back to the jungle and spent 90 days digging with teaspoons and forks to search for any remains.
“When you lose somebody, you need that closure. The families of these 10 citizens are optimistic of finding closure,” Clever said.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders were on hand at the ceremony to help support Clever retell his story of American spirit.