Flag Day 2017

Mystic Seaport hosted 74 people from 32 countries to become United States citizens at an annual naturalization ceremony.

For Kasturi Yalamanchili, the decision to become a United States citizen after living here for 13 years was an easy one.

“It’s my country now,” the Wilton, CT, resident said. “When I go back home (to India) I feel like I don’t belong there anymore. When I go back there now, it is a vacation, because this is my home.”

Yalamanchili was one of 74 people who took the Oath of Allegiance on Wednesday during the 6th annual Flag Day Naturalization Ceremony at Mystic Seaport. They represented 32 countries.

“It is a special privilege to welcome all of you to beautiful Mystic Seaport on Flag Day,” said Museum President Steve White in opening remarks. “Mystic Seaport is America’s leading maritime museum, and we tell the story of America’s maritime heritage, which often includes immigration. Many of us, either ourselves or relatives from long ago, emigrated here by sea, whether it be sail, steam or power. It was always a voyage of hope, anticipation and anxiety.

“Today you will leave Mystic Seaport as citizens of the United States, and on your personal voyage that started years ago, you completed a leg of that journey today.Now you will add your imprint to your country’s story. It is our story. It is now your story too. We honor your path, and we wish you well.”

Representatives of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ran the ceremony, hosting Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons and representatives from U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Joe Courtney. Enthan Enzer, section chief, and Nieves Cardinale, field office director of the USCIS office in Hartford, offered remarks.

This was the second year that the Honorable Judge Robert A. Richardson, U.S. magistrate judge for the District of Connecticut, administered the oath of allegiance and handed out the certificates of citizenship. In his remarks, Judge Richardson noted that he “shamelessly begged” to oversee the ceremony this year because he enjoyed it so much last year.

“Before I administer the oath, I would ask everyone to look around at this group,” Judge Richardson said. “This is a good illustration of what America really is all about. We have a very diverse group in front of us. And in the end it doesn’t matter where you came from or what your race is or what religion you practice, or if you even practice a religion at all. At the end of the day we are all Americans.”

Theresa Boakye-Mensah of Ghana has lived in the U.S. since 2008. She resides in East Hartford and works as a caregiver. She wanted to become a citizen because “I love this country. I like the rule of law.” For Hector Ceron of Guatemala, after living and working in Stamford, CT, as a mason for 17 years, “I want to be a part of this country. This country has given me so many opportunities, and I want to give back to it.”

Pasquale Poccia came to the United States more than 30 years ago from Italy. He owns and runs an Italian restaurant in New Canaan, CT, and until this year was just “too busy” to become a citizen. His wife and children are all citizens and he just decided now was the time. “I love this country. I want to be part of it.”

Gloria Manheimer, a hair stylist from Ridgefield, CT, also wanted to become a citizen because everyone else in her family is one. Her husband of 14 years, Isaac, is American, and their two children were born here. Gloria came here from Ghana. “I want my family to all be from the same country,” she said.

Sri Kanagala of Mystic was in the audience to watch his wife Vara, daughter Vineela, and son Deep take the oath. The family has lived here for 18 years – coming from India when Vineela was 1-year-old. “This is a proud moment,” Sri said. “This is our home. We are very attached to Mystic. Our children grew up here.” Sri expects to become a citizen soon, as well.

For Maurice Bunnell and Jorge Luis Speranza of East Haven, being able to be together has been a long journey. They met 11 years ago, and legally wed in 2013. It wasn’t until the federal Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional that they could marry and Maurice could sponsor Jorge for citizenship from his native Italy. “This means a great deal to us. It is a very emotional and exciting day.”

Countries represented today: Albania, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Macedonia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, South  Korea, St. Lucia, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uzbekistan.