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Life, liberty and the pursuit of serving

  • Published
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

In the Bulacan province of the Philippines, Mark Cruz began to dream of something greater, something different, something life changing--becoming an American Airman.

“I was working in warehouses, construction and food services, but that wasn’t enough,” said Cruz. “I wanted to do more, achieve more; I wanted a different lifestyle.”

At 19 years of age, Cruz began his journey by applying through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to take up permanent residence in the United States in 2012.

Although he had taken the first step in his journey, Cruz still had a long way to go.

“I wasn’t fluent in English. I had learned it in school; however, I hadn’t really applied it in my everyday usage,” stated Cruz. “It was a barrier for me, and after two years of studying the American culture and language, I was finally ready to take the next step--joining the Air Force.”

After meeting with an Air Force recruiter in 2014, Cruz enlisted and entered the delayed entry program until being selected in 2015 to embark on a career in diagnostic imaging.

“I’m really glad I was selected for this job because there aren’t very many people being selected for this,” said Cruz. “I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Cruz had become an Airman; however, he wasn’t an American citizen yet, which posed a problem for his military career.

“I was supposed to become a citizen after graduating from basic military training, but there was a mix-up, and things were delayed,” said Cruz. “I didn’t think I was going to become a citizen. I thought my career in the Air Force was going to end before it even began.”

With his citizenship weighing on his mind, Airman 1st Class Cruz went on to complete Phase I of his Radiology technical training in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. However upon his arrival at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, for Phase II training, his situation began to look gloomy.

“I was in-processing; and because I wasn’t a citizen yet, I didn’t have a security clearance, which meant no common access card certificates, no computer access, not even an email address,” stated Cruz. “I started to get stressed out and overwhelmed, but Mr. Marchaesi began assisting me, and things began to turn around.”

With the help of Jeffrey Marchaesi, the Phase II Course supervisor, Cruz began to make phone calls and in the end, his persistence began to pay off.

“He deserved a chance just like any other person, especially being a student of mine,” said Marchaesi. “During my Air Force career, my supervisor had helped me out by taking me under his wing, so I felt I had to do the same and pay it forward to him.”

Cruz explained that while it was a stressful time for him, he was determined to become an American citizen and never stopped studying for the citizenship test.

“My paperwork finally made it from Texas to Florida, and I was able to conduct my naturalization interview and test,” said Cruz. “I was one step closer to becoming a citizen.”

Cruz passed his test with flying colors, and on May 13, 2016, he finally became an American citizen.

“I was very excited when Airman Cruz got his citizenship because I knew he had worked hard,” said Marchaesi. “Although there were some setbacks along the way, he stayed really positive, and if he can deal with this, he can deal with anything in his Air Force career.”

“I don’t know the words to use to describe how I feel now that I’m an American,” said Cruz. “I can have my security clearance now, and I can move forward in my Air Force career.”