Not all Americans are born in America. Recently, MIL accountant and Post Allotment Business Analyst Nashat Zeidallah and his wife became naturalized American citizens. Together they took the Oath of Allegiance (also called the USA Citizenship Oath), celebrating, once again, the hope and opportunity the US represents to many of the World’s citizens. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the US has welcomed and estimated 7.4 million naturalized citizens over the last 10 years.

Nashat and his family—his wife Huda and three young sons—came to the US from Syria in 2012, leaving behind them war, instability, and unrest. Sadly, they also left behind family and friends and a way of life that was both familiar and precious, for a wholly unknown future in America. A leap of faith.

When they first arrived in the US, Nashat and his wife and children had no family to welcome them. But, in Nashat’s view they were still “blessed by God” as they had a community group in Easton, Maryland to host them when they first landed. The group selected Fred and Anne Smyth (who joined them in their Oath ceremony and are pictured with them in the photo) to facilitate and assist them in getting settled. The Smyths helped with paperwork, finding an apartment, opening a bank account, etc. They were also very instrumental in helping Nashat and Huda get their eldest son, Moustafa, 6-years old at the time, get enrolled and started in school in less than a week. With time, Fred and Anne became the Zeidallahs “extended family,” so much so that when they decided to relocate to Charleston, SC, the Smyths decided to move as well so they could all remain close.

After getting settled in Maryland, the first order of business was to begin building a new American life. As luck and perseverance would have it, Walmart was the first employer to answer the call, offering Nashat his first paying job in America. And while his wife and children went about the task of learning a new language, Nashat got to work establishing a work history that would help to ground him in his new country.

In February 2013, Nashat applied and was hired by The MIL Corporation to support a U.S. Department of State contract. As Nashat had previously served as an accountant at the American Embassy in Damascus for 15 years, and was familiar with both MIL and the State Department programs MIL conducts, he was an ideal fit for the company. Almost immediately, Nashat distinguished himself in his first position at MIL as a Voucher Examiner, receiving a “Certification of Appreciation” for outstanding performance in support of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs-Kabul within his first two months on the job.

The last five years have seen many changes and adjustments for the entire Zeidallah family. For the children, it’s meant English as a Second Language classes and an opportunity to learn all about their new country in public schools; first in Maryland and now in Charleston. For Huda, it’s also been about learning the language and the culture, but also about teaching about her own “Mother” country’s history, customs, and beliefs. For example, Huda recently shared with readers her insight into Al-Hijri, the Islamic New Year, in an article published by Charleston’s Post and Courier. With support and fellowship from new friends and congregants of the Central Mosque of Charleston, Huda has made a place for herself in her community.

As for Nashat, his new life in America has been bittersweet since he had to leave behind what he had known and cherished; most especially his mother and sister who still live in Syria, a world away.

In his citizenship oath, Nashat pledged to “bear true faith and allegiance,” with a special emphasis on faith. When asked what advice he would give other world citizens coming to America to start again, he replied “Have faith in God.” On a more practical note, he added “and take any job.” Great advice from someone who has been there—and moved on.

Congratulations to Nashat and Huda and their three sons (Moustafa, Ayman, and Youssef) on becoming new American citizens!