View from VISTA

Serving Our Country: Reflections on Veterans and Volunteers

Lucy Ouano

Sarah Ouano
Development and Donor Relations VISTA

On June 5th, 2015, I received a photo text from my mother. She had taken her very first “selfie,” immediately after she had taken the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. As the nation’s newest citizen, my mother nearly burst with excitement to serve her country. It took fifty-five years to complete this process, and this extraordinary event—assuming citizenship of the United States—changed her identity.

At the time, and as a natural-born citizen, I had never experienced a monumental moment of committing myself to “the protection of my nation’s constitution,” to “work of national importance,” “so help me God.”* I had never known the swell of pride that had overtaken my mother at the utterance of these words. But all of that changed when, two months later, I took an oath myself:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend
the Constitution of the United States
against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

That I take this obligation freely,
without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;

And that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties
of the office on which I am about to enter.

So help me God.”**

Being a citizen of the United States bears many rights—to freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, among others—but we cannot deny the responsibilities we assume as well. Not all of us can “bear arms on behalf of the United States,”* but we all can fight the war on poverty, on inequality, on injustice, both here and abroad. This Veterans Day, let us be keenly aware of the sacrifice and service of the veterans of this country, and of our own call to serve. May the pride we have in this nation translate to the protection of the welfare of her people.

Through the Corporation for National and Community Service, I serve in Malden, Massachusetts, at Housing Families Inc. Housing Families brings awareness of the crisis of family homelessness to the Greater Boston area, and works toward the long-term independence and stability of homeless and at-risk families. My name is Sarah Ouano. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA, and I am serving America.

* “Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America,” US Citizenship and Immigration Services
** “Oath of Service,” US Office of Personnel Management