World War II Army Veteran Becomes U.S. Citizen at Last

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by syscom3, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    World War II Army Veteran Becomes U.S. Citizen at Last

    http://bulletin.aarp.org/yourworld/...army_veteran_becomes_u_s_citizen_at_last.html

    After being drafted in 1942 during World War II, James O’Donnell recited the oath of allegiance alongside two dozen fellow soldiers at a North Carolina Army base. At 20 years old, O’Donnell became a citizen of the United States, the country he’d called home since emigrating from Ireland at age 4—or so he thought.
    Within two years, O’Donnell was digging foxholes as a U.S. infantryman on the frontlines in France, Belgium and Germany. He thought little more of the hasty citizenship ceremony.
    When O’Donnell left the Army in 1946, with a Bronze Battle Star in hand, he received his discharge papers, on which a question about citizenship had been checked yes. It didn’t even occur to O’Donnell to ask for citizenship papers. He remembered saying the oath before a judge, and that was that.
    But things didn’t turn out to be so simple. Forty-six years later, upon retiring from his job as a Connecticut factory supervisor, O’Donnell applied for a passport, only to learn that he never really was a U.S. citizen.
    O’Donnell contacted immigration officials and the Department of Veterans Affairs, anyone he could think of. “Nobody seemed to know anything,” he says.
    It appeared it was all a bureaucratic screwup. But without citizenship papers, O’Donnell was stuck. It didn’t seem to matter that America is the only country he’s ever known.
    O’Donnell was just a boy when he traveled with his mother, brother and sisters from Belfast to meet up with his father in Chicago. “I remember a few little things, like getting my picture taken with my mother and all the family, and I remember being on the boat,” he says of life before he came to America.

    O’Donnell says he always felt like an American, no matter what the paperwork may say. He went to first grade in Chicago and graduated from high school there before being drafted into the Army.
    Still, none of O’Donnell’s efforts to sort out his citizenship status paid off. Inquiry after inquiry went unanswered, and soon enough he decided to back off.
    Life went on. O’Donnell moved to Beebe, Ark., to care for an ailing sister, but he always wondered.
    “It wasn’t urgent or anything, but every once in a while I’d think about going over to Ireland,” O’Donnell says. He didn’t know what he’d find there, without any addresses for the relatives he had left behind. But it would just be nice to look around and get a feel for the place, he says.
    In 2009, at age 87, O’Donnell decided to make one more attempt. He went to the Memphis, Tenn., immigration office to speak with Officer Kimberly Williams about getting a green card, at the very least. “She said, ‘What do you want a green card for? You should have your citizenship,’ ” O’Donnell recalls.
    At last, he had found his angel.
    In just three months, O’Donnell sailed through the required paperwork, which immigration officials rush for veterans. And on Dec. 10 he returned to Memphis, this time to take the oath of allegiance.
    “I thought there would be me and 20 other guys becoming citizens, but I got down there and it was a special ceremony just for me,” O’Donnell says. “It was wonderful.”
    Now there’s just one thing left to do. O’Donnell is applying for a passport so that he can finally take a trip to Europe.
     
  2. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    :salute:

    How cool it that, thanks for posting.
     
  3. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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  4. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    :salute: Welcome aboard, Mr. O'Donnell!

    The fact that a decorated veteran of the US ARMY should have to go through that is just plain wrong!
     
  5. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Cool, great to see him get it finally. :salute:
     
  6. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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  7. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    I am glad he found the right person to get this straightened out for him. Too bad he had to go through all this! His status as a veteran should have cut through all the needless paperwork and processes IMO.
     
  8. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Once he swore in to serve the country, he should've been granted citizenship. We'll let someone die for us, but not be one of us???
     
  9. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    He was from a different era. Things were different.

    And remember, he was one individual among 10's of millions being quickly processed for the demands of the war.
     
  10. conkerking

    conkerking Member

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    I'm an O'Donnell too - good to hear that one of ours has got his due. If he does get to Europe I'll buy him a pint. :salute:
     
  11. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    I know. I was just sorta putting my thoughts in a current time-frame, and maybe we could find a way to make it retroactive, you know, set something in place so that if anyone else comes up with the same problem, there's steps in place to make it happen instead of just bouncing the poor guy around a bunch of indifferent departments?
     
  12. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The one thing he didn't try was to go to one of his state or federal elected officials for help. Regardless of political leanings, they do (and have always) liked to help constituents on issues like this.
     
  13. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    :salute: Glad they sorted it out.:)
     
  14. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    I wasn't sure...the article didn't follow his process in minute detail.
     
  15. wheelsup_cavu

    wheelsup_cavu Well-Known Member

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    Great article Sys. :thumbup:


    Wheels
     
  16. Ferdinand Foch

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    Nice article Sys. Thank God that he finally got his citizenship.
     
  17. Maestro

    Maestro Active Member

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    I think it is the case with most armies... I remember reading on the Royal Navy web site (years ago) that if you wanted to have the British citizenship, you had to request it.

    The only exception I know of is the French Foreign Legion... Which gives citizenship to any of their veteran once they complete their tour of duty.
     
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