Newest U.S. citizens take oath in the shadow of retired Air Force One

The special ceremony is a partnership between Boeing, the Museum of Flight, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

September 21, 2023 in Our-Community

When new U.S. citizens take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, it’s no surprise that the American flag figures prominently.

At Seattle’s Museum of Flight, 35 new citizens from 19 countries took the oath on September 12 under an American flag emblazoned prominently on the tail of a Boeing-made Air Force One. The Boeing 707, now retired, was used by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. It’s a symbol of history and freedom, a fact not lost on Michael Byron. Byron moved to the U.S. from Canada decades ago and has sought U.S. citizenship for many years.

“When you cross the border into the United States, it’s about sovereignty,” said Byron. “And the first ten amendments to your Constitution resonate with a lot of people, and they all talk to rights of freedom.”

After today, Byron can call the U.S. Constitution his own, as can Shenika Vassell. Vassell, a native of Jamaica, currently serves in the U.S. Army.

“I’ve been working towards today since I got here in 2015. And it was such a long process,” said Vassell. “There was a lot of crying and sad moments thinking, am I going to be able to make it in this country?”

Boeing engineer and senior principal investigator Suellen dos Santos Frank can relate. She became a U.S. citizen just two years ago and served as the keynote speaker at the event.

“My citizenship journey started sixteen years ago,” dos Santos Frank told the crowd. “I remember arriving in Seattle on a cold evening during a harsh winter. I didn’t have warm clothing or money and could barely speak English.”

She arrived in Seattle as an au pair. The father of her host family worked at Boeing.

“I remember being amazed and fascinated while touring the Everett facility and dreaming that one day I would work there,” she said. “Little did I know that this was the start of the most remarkable journey of my life.”

After today, Vassell is ready to embrace her own journey as a U.S. citizen.

“There is a lot of opportunity that comes with being a citizen; a lot of doors open,” she said.

She has her sights on becoming an officer in the U.S. Army, and she also intends to become a registered nurse.

That’s her goal long term. Immediately after the citizenship ceremony, her goal is simply this: “Oh yes, we are definitely going to be celebrating,” she said.

Learn more about dos Santos Frank and Boeing careers here: