11 countries represented at Smith County naturalization - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

11 countries represented at Smith County naturalization ceremony

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

Eleven countries were represented Wednesday at the naturalization ceremony in Smith County.

Friends and family filled the court room as new citizens said the Pledge of Allegiance for the very first time.

When they sang, "God Bless America," it evoked even more emotion on this special day for Doctor Udeme Ekpenyong.

"One of the songs he was singing, "God Bless America," my daughter sings that," said Dr. Ekpenyong.

They're words he never heard growing up, but his children know so well.

"We have three beautiful kids who are all Americans. We had them all here. Everyday they ask, 'Daddy, where are you from?' And we go, 'Oh, we are from Nigeria.' And they go, 'When are we going back to Nigeria?' And we go, 'No, this is your country.'  And they are like, 'But you are from there.' And we're like, 'One day we will become one of you,'" Dr. Ekpenyong said.

That day was today.

He and his wife were born in Nigeria, where he says he lived until he was in his early thirties.

"I went to the Caribbean to work in the Caribbean medical school and I met a lot of American students and everything," Dr. Ekpenyong said.

Then, he said, he moved to New York for his residency and then made his way to East Texas to become a pediatrician.

"This is a beautiful country," he said.

The best part of this journey?

"Oh, the end is the best part," Ekpenyong laughed.

"This is a lovely country. There are so many opportunities here for everyone. I'm hoping I will be able to extend my help to a couple of other relations back home to see if they can have the same opportunity I had," he said.

He said it was a lengthy process, but he made a lot of friends along the way and now, holding the certificate of citizenship in his hands, he knows every second was worth it.

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