|From The Orlando Sentinel orlandosentinel.com
Orlando soldier who just became citizen dies in Afghanistan
Pfc. Alberto L. Obod Jr., 26, died Sunday after rollover crash in Kandahar, officials say
September 01, 2011|By Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel
In April, U.S. Army Pfc. Alberto L. Obod Jr. beamed as he officially became an American citizen. On Sunday, officials said, he lost his life while serving his nation in the Middle East.
The 26-year-old soldier and Orlando resident died Sunday in Afghanistan's Kandahar province after he was fatally injured in a vehicle rollover, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
Obod was assigned to the 391st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's 16th Sustainment Brigade, based in Bamberg, Germany.
A native of the Philippines, Obod had a natural talent for tumbling, family said, and worked as a traveling acrobat before suffering an injury at age 17.
"He was very physical and athletic," said stepfather John Restino.
After coming to America, Obod worked at a hotel, sending the proceeds back to the Philippines for his wife and child.
"Whatever he made, he would send it," Restino said of Obod, who was born in Caloocan City, a region in the north ofManila. "He was a great guy."
Family said Obod was inspired when one of his two younger brothers joined the Navy and became a U.S. citizen. Obod joined the Army and set out to do the same.
That goal was accomplished about five months ago, when Obod became a naturalized American citizen during a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, according to the U.S. Embassy inKabul.
Photos of the ceremony show a joyful Obod smiling as he looks over his naturalization certificate.
"That was a very proud day for him and for us," Restino said. He said Obod had hoped citizenship would pave the way to bring his family to America. They remain in the Philippines.
In any company, his stepfather said, Obod was "the one that everyone liked" — friendly, happy and compassionate.
"He was a big ball of joy," Restino said.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics, more than 70,000 members of the military have become naturalized citizens since September 2001, almost 10,000 of them abroad.
Sharon Scheidhauer, spokeswoman for USCIS' Orlando office, sees immigrants become naturalized citizens weekly in Central Florida.
It's a powerful and supremely meaningful moment in their lives, Scheidhauer said. And for those who become citizens while fighting for their country, she said, it has a particular meaning.
Eligibility requires a year of honorable service, lawful permanent residence and knowledge of the English language and American history. The agency waives its fee and expedites paperwork for the military.