SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
Since a proclamation signing in 1978, May has been recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, in honor of the contributions they have made to the U.S.
According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 61,000 Asian American and Pacific Islanders serving in active duty roles.
One of those 61,000 is Senior Airman April Koerner, a paralegal assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
On May 21, 2021, Koerner recited the Oath of Allegiance marking the completion of her journey to become a U.S. citizen.
“Both of my parents are Filipino and I was born and raised in the Philippines,” said Koerner.
That’s where she met her husband, who was in the U.S. Army, before starting a family together. On July 17, 2017, Koerner arrived to the U.S. from the Philippines.
“I came here because my husband was here and it was hard being away from him,” Koerner said. “Also, there were great opportunities for my family and me.”
Their children were also growing up without their father’s influence and that made things more difficult.
After joining her husband in the U.S., Koerner decided to enlist in the Air Force.
“It was my childhood dream and I believe it’s my calling,” reflected Koerner. “My family and I love diversity, traveling and exploring. I believed that joining the military was the best way to achieve my dreams.”
Once enlisted, Koerner felt inspired to become a U.S. citizen because of the freedom that the U.S. offered and she wanted to vote in a federal election.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 328, special provisions apply to those who serve in the U.S. military (active duty, reserve or National Guard) that allow them to file for naturalization based on their current or prior U.S. military service.
Koerner took advantage of this process and today calls herself “a proud American.”
“I am so proud to be a citizen in the premier land of democracy,” said Koerner. “I feel a sense of security, joy and pride. I am hopeful that now that I am an American citizen, I can contribute more to our Nation. I would love to serve for a long time.”
The journey to citizenship may be tough for some hopefuls but thanks to Koerner’s heritage and upbringing, she was able to overcome the challenges.
“My heritage taught me to be very resilient, honest, proud, hardworking, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect,” she said.
Koerner’s journey was not a lonely one as her family and leadership supported her every step.
“I am so grateful and thankful to my family, my leadership, my supervisor, colleagues, and friends,” she said. “I am especially thankful for Lt. Col. Sarah Edmundson, 4th FW Judge Advocate, who was very helpful throughout the process.
She asked me what I needed, gave me time to take care of things and allowed me to study before my interview and test,” Koerner said. “I hope that other applicants receive the same help and support I received throughout the process.”
For anyone who is debating on become a U.S. citizen, Koerner offered some advice.
“The U.S. citizenship process is definitely different for each individual, depending on the situation,” she said. “Be patient, follow instructions. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and where to get resources. Now that I’ve been through the process successfully, I can definitely help.”
Koerner plans on continuing to serve in the U.S. Air Force for as long as she can.
“I wish I had come to the U.S. sooner so I could have joined the U.S. Air Force earlier,” said Koerner. “I am so happy.”