Three Airmen celebrate first Independence Day as US citizens

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Stan Coleman
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Three Airmen of the 23rd Mission Support Group are celebrating their first Fourth of July, as United States citizens.

They are Airmen 1st Class Alexandra Fleig, Rangel Robinson and Christopher Canlas. Airmen Fleig and Robinson, 23rd Force Support Squadron customer support representatives, and Airman Canlas, 23rd MSG knowledge operations manager, have recently achieved status as U.S. citizens within the last three months.

Each Airman has a different story on how they came to the U.S., but all three have taken advantage of the opportunities the Air Force has to offer, especially the process of naturalization as military members.

Legal residents who enlist in the military can petition for citizenship immediately, rather than wait the five years required for civilians to start the process.

Each of these three Airmen is immensely proud of their citizenship status. Here are their stories.

Airman 1st Class Alexandra Fleig
Airman Fleig was born and educated in Romania. She met her husband, Staff Sgt. Daniel Fleig, while he was serving at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

"I was a housewife during the first few years of our marriage, but I decided that lifestyle was not for me," said Airman Fleig. "I decided to join because I wanted to make a difference, as well as the great opportunities and job security."

Airman Fleig achieved her citizenship status on April 16.

"I chose to become a citizen because I married one and then decided I wanted the same rights that he had," said Airman Fleig.

"This is my first Fourth of July as a citizen of the United States," she said. "I am happy to be a part of the American community as a citizen and celebrate the Independence Day of my adopted country.

"The three most important things I enjoy about the United States are the diversity of people, the vastness of the land and the fact that people here are more accepting and open to new cultures," she added.

"It's just unbelievable," said Airman Fleig. "I love the fact I can travel almost anywhere in this country without a visa."

Airman Fleig revealed that the three most important goals of her life are to become a parent, see as much of the world as possible and become an U.S. ambassador.

"I feel that being a U.S. citizen and the privilege of serving in the Air Force will help make those goals a reality," she said.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Canlas
When Airman Canlas first arrived in the United States in 2007, the last thing on his mind was joining the military. But fortunately for him, he had family already serving.

He recalls, "I had two cousins who were serving in the Air Force. They encouraged me to join and two years later, I was in basic training."

Airman Canlas was born and raised in Angeles City, Philippines.

"My mom came to the United States in 2001," said Airman Canlas. "She later submitted a request to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau for me to join her. I have two older brothers who have also achieved their citizenships.

"My mom, family and fellow Airmen were my biggest supporters in influencing me to achieve my citizenship," he added. "The most challenging thing about the process is all of the paperwork. I'm glad I followed through."

Airman Canlas became a U.S. citizen on June 16.

"My first Fourth of July holiday means a lot to me," he said. "We are celebrating our freedom and it is a great time to reflect on all of the hard work our veterans have done and the sacrifices they have made."

Airman Canlas enjoys the privileges of being an American citizen.

"In order to serve to my fullest potential in the military, citizenship status was required to go after the opportunities I want to achieve," he said. "I can now obtain a secret clearance in the Air Force and re-enlist."

Airman Canlas has a positive outlook on his future as a U.S. citizen. He is looking to obtain a Community College of the Air Force degree and then pursue a four-year degree in the nursing profession.

"I want to help people," he said. "There are a lot of opportunities in the U.S. compared to where I came from."

Airman 1st Class Rangel Robinson
Airman Robinson remembers travelling from Costa Rica to North America with his grandmother when he was 2 years old.

"After living in Canada for five years, my mother asked me if I wanted to go to New York," he said. "It wasn't a hard decision to say yes; my older brother was going and I looked up to him. Little did I realize that my residency there would take me from my country to serving in the Air Force and achieving U.S. citizenship."

Airman Rangel's family had relatives that were U.S. citizens living in New York. He attended school from the fifth grade until he graduated in 2006.

"My family took care of me for several years while my mom worked on a cruise ship as a nurse," he said. "My mom eventually left that job so she could be closer to me and my brother."

Airman Rangel credits his fascination with the military as an influence to join the Air Force.

"I watched the military channel on television almost religiously as well as submerged myself into any information I could find on the military," he said.

When Airman Rangel shared his desire to join the military, his peers were opposed to the idea.

"I was given every reason not to join," he said. "I decided to stick to my decision and not do what others told me.

"When I first enlisted, I discovered that because of my citizenship status I was not eligible for certain jobs although I qualified for them," said Airman Rangel. "Being a citizen would help me put more of my skills to use and in order to re-enlist I would have to be a citizen."

Airman Rangel achieved his U.S. citizenship status on June 16.

"The celebration of Independence Day as an American citizen means the same for me as it did in Costa Rica," he said."It is a day to reflect on the lives lost and sacrifices made to obtain our present day lifestyle in this country."

Airman Rangel values his new country's historical documents of freedom- the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"I believe in defending the liberties that these documents stand for at all costs," he said. "I think that people do not know what they have until it has been taken away from them.

"As a citizen of the U.S., I know that three of the most important goals in my life will become a reality," he added. "Those goals are to live comfortably, own property and achieve more than I've had for my future children."