By Curt Yeomans
September 18th and 19th have been special days for Ulrike Voyles and her husband, Lyle, for the last 39 years.
On Sept. 18, 1970, the couple, from Huntsville, Ala., got married in an official state ceremony in Germany. A day later, they got married in a church. Ulrike was a native of Germany, and Lyle was an enlisted serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, who was stationed in Germany at the time.
After Thursday, they can now add Sept. 17, to make a trilogy of special days for them, because that will forever be the anniversary of when Ulrike Voyles, 56, became a U.S. citizen.
She was one of 117 people, from 51 countries, who took the Oath of Allegiance and became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta on Thursday.
The ceremony was overseen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is a part of the federal Department of Homeland Security.
"With today and Saturday being our 39th wedding anniversary, that makes it special," Ulrike Voyles said. "I was prepared and ready to become a U.S. citizen. I am proud of it. Our family is a military family, so I already had a built-in sense of patriotism. I feel like I've been a citizen for a while. Now, it's just official."
The new U.S. citizens, who took their oath in Morrow, were among 8,328 people who became U.S. citizens at 73 naturalization ceremonies held across the country on what is known as Constitution Day, according to the USCIS web site.
Thursday was "Constitution Day" because it marked the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.
"You can now take advantage of the full rights and responsibilities of being citizens of the United States," USCIS Atlanta Field Director Bertha Johnson told the group.
"Your journey as an immigrant is over. You are now free to pursue your own unique version of the American dream," added Atlanta Field Office District Director Denise Frazier.
Participants officially became U.S. citizens once they took the seven-paragraph Oath of Allegiance. During the oath, they raised their right hands and renounced their allegiance to the countries they had left, and pledged to "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
As the new citizens finished the oath, many broke into smiles. Some of them began to wave small American flags they received at the beginning of the ceremony, while others shook hands with their fellow, new Americans.
"It felt good to recite the oath," said new citizen, Chun Myung Seo, an Athens resident and a native of South Korea. "During the oath, I was thinking about the responsibility. I felt like I now have a responsibility for this country."
Lawrenceville resident, and new citizen, Meliton Cepeda, a native of Mexico, who has been living in the U.S. for 39 years, said he was "glad" when he finished reciting the oath. "It feels real good," he said. "This is something I've dreamed of for a long time."
After the ceremony, each new American received a naturalization certificate from Frazier and Johnson before heading to another room, where representatives from six local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution had organized a reception.
Representatives from the Clayton County-based Augustin Clayton Chapter of the organization gave the new citizens American flag lapel pins, and Chick-fil-A and Truett's Grill fried pie coupons that had a special message written on the back.
It said, "Now you are as American as apple pie."