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Proud to be an American
Sylvia Henry
Sylvia Henry became an American on July 11 after living in Belmont, Wisconsin for over 50 years. - photo by Kayla Barnes

BELMONT – On July 11, 2019 in Milwaukee, Sylvia Henry of Belmont became an American citizen.

It wasn’t something she took lightly but knew this was the time to do it.

“I had started and attempted at it so many times over the years and always had to do so much paperwork but with everything going on now, I was ready,” Sylvia mentioned.

Even though she was born and raised near Liverpool, England, Sylvia has never felt that she wasn’t a part of this country, having lived in the United States off and on since 1967 when she married her American husband, Keith.

They met while Keith was working for the United States Military in France with a relative of Sylvia’s. They liked Keith so much they brought him back to England with them where both Sylvia and Keith were named godparents to that relative’s child.

“We were documented together since day one. It was meant to be,” Sylvia jested.

Keith stayed in the military until 1986 when they finally settled down in Keith’s hometown of Belmont.

By then they had traveled back and forth overseas several times for Keith’s job and Sylvia’s family and every time they entered back into the United States, it was more paperwork for Sylvia to complete.

Sylvia showed off her British passport and the alien registration card she used until 1995 when they gave her the full sheet copy for her to use. - photo by Kayla Barnes

“When coming back on a British passport and an alien registration card, you have to go in a different line. They give you a form to fill out on the plane and you have to submit it when you get off,” Sylvia explained.

In order to officially take the oath of citizenship, one has to have lived in the United States for five years. There was a time right after they were married when they were in the United States and got a jump start on the process but then, after only three years they were sent to Germany for Keith’s job.

They then went on with life, a busy life at that, filled with the birth of four children, three born in Germany due to being in the military.  Even when they retired from the military, they were constantly going to Europe to visit family and friends.

Over the years, she kept changing her mind. She wasn’t sure how she felt denouncing her country and her queen. She was always loyal to the United States and always pledged and saluted the American flag. With the news going on with Brexit, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, and the issues in the United States with immigration, Sylvia took that final step.

“It got to the point with the arguments about Brexit and we just had a great-grandchild and have another grandchild on the way, I don’t want things to be complicated for them later on,” Sylvia said.

Having over 50 years of being part of the United States, she more than qualified. The day finally came and she was nervous. In the days leading up to it, she had done enough paperwork to fill her house and had her fingerprints stamped so many times to turn her fingers different colors.

“People are not aware of the difficult process. They did a very extensive background check and fill out paperwork after paperwork. They asked several questions and more,” Sylvia described.

She stated they had to raise our hands like in the court of law. It was a very moving ceremony and it was a big step for her.

There were over 39 different nationalities present. She was the only person from the United Kingdom pledging allegiance. Her daughter and husband were there, documenting the entire thing. It was something she will never forget.

“There were no draw backs to being having my permanent residency but I couldn’t vote or be on a jury. As Keith and I get older, I wanted to have that sense of security if anything were to happen to either of us,” she stated.

She will always love England and the life it gave her but is proud now to be able to call herself an American.