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Airman from Iraq earns citizenship through service

Airman 1st Class Theo Shakir fixes a broken piece of medical equipment Oct. 29, 2014, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Shakir is a 375th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician who was born in Iraq. He started his process of becoming a U.S. citizen three years ago when he joined the military. Despite some difficulties, he obtained his citizenship on Oct. 17, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner)

Airman 1st Class Theo Shakir fixes a broken piece of medical equipment Oct. 29, 2014, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Shakir is a 375th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician who was born in Iraq. He started his process of becoming a U.S. citizen three years ago when he joined the military. Despite some difficulties, he obtained his citizenship on Oct. 17, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Theo Shakir grew up in a very different landscape compared to the life he wakes up to now. He hasn't always been an Air Force biomedical equipment technician and he hasn't always been a citizen of the United States.

His life changed dramatically in 2005, when he and his family took leave from their unravelling native country.

"I am originally from Baghdad, Iraq," said the airman 1st class. "My first language is Arabic."

Shakir’s family worked for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and when his uncle was assassinated, his family left the same week. They took only luggage and left their cars and home behind. He also had to say goodbye to his grandfather, who refused to leave the country and wouldn't let the family stay.

"The worst part was having my family separate at that moment in time, because I lost two people within a week," Shakir recalled.

Shakir joined the Air Force in January 2013 to gain experience and discipline. He also happened to gain his citizenship through his service. He started his process of becoming a citizen of the U.S. three years ago and, despite some difficulties, he obtained his citizenship Oct. 17.

"It was a pretty straight forward process," he said. "The only trouble I had was starting the process over three times. The first time I started I was a civilian and the second time I was in technical training for my job and I was not allowed to complete the process. The third time was the time that actually worked."

When his citizenship went through, Shakir took part in a citizenship ceremony attended by his coworkers and friends from the 375th Medical Support Squadron.

"The most rewarding part of obtaining my citizenship was being welcomed and supported by my shop and leadership," Shakir said.

His entire shop has been behind him in obtaining his citizenship and his supervisor said he is proud of his Airman's accomplishment.

"We are very proud of him for getting his citizenship," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Smith, a 375th MDSS medical maintenance NCO in-charge. "Going to the citizenship ceremony was eye opening. None of us had ever seen a citizenship ceremony before. There were a lot of people there that were so grateful to obtain their citizenship, something we take for granted."

Shakir's favorite thing about his citizenship is that he has a place to now call home.

"My favorite thing about obtaining my citizenship has been the security that comes with it," he said. "Where I am from, the lack of security is why we move around. Now I don't have to move around anymore. I also love the idea of this country, a place where you can make your own name, no one is above the law, and everyone has the same fair shot at life. All are equal."


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