SHERIDAN — For seven Wyoming residents, Flag Day on Friday was more than a day to fly Old Glory and feel patriotic.
That day, three men and four women stood in 4th Judicial District Court, their hands over their hearts, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance for their first time as citizens of the United States of America.
Hua Mei Yang’s lip quivered with the emotion of the moment, and more than 50 friends, family and other well-wishers cheered with gusto in a room usually reserved for more solemn proceedings.
The naturalization ceremony itself was concise — comprised of welcoming remarks by Judge John Fenn, a formal recitation of the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and gifts bestowed by local service organizations — but it was the culmination of years of paperwork and interviews for the seven applicants.
Wyoming residents who became naturalized citizens in Friday’s ceremony were: Manuel Fallert from Germany, Jhony Lima from Guatemala, Martha Maria Novotny from Bolivia, Brenda Belen Soto Ortega from Mexico, Sergio Octavio Peralta from Mexico, Alexandra Reile from Germany and Hua Mei Yang from Vietnam.
“It’s been a goal and now it’s accomplished,” Novotny said. “This is a day to celebrate. It is a big day.”
Novotny came to America from Bolivia because she has family here. She’s been working for a few years to gain citizenship.
As Fenn clapped his gavel and called court into session, he said naturalization ceremonies are one of his favorite duties as a judge.
“Most of us, in our history, there’s someone like you who came to America,” Fenn said. “I benefit from my ancestors coming to America for a better life. So often I take that for granted, but on days like this, I reflect.”
Following the ceremony, members of several local service organizations showered the new citizens with various red, white and blue mementos to celebrate the day.
“Your hard work to become a citizen is a good reminder to us who already are. We are all brothers and sisters now under the same flag,” said Marcia Gonda, with the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, and Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, offered welcoming remarks and representatives of U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis were also present to show support.
Reile and her oldest son Fallert were naturalized together. She said it was not hard to give up her German citizenship because it makes everything simpler to be a citizen in the country she has called home for 12 years.
“I’m proud to be a citizen now,” Reile said. “I always will be a little German in my head, but I’m happy to be a citizen now.”