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October 14, 2009 > Alfredo Arqueza

Alfredo Arqueza

By Simon Wong

Hayward resident and Army National Guardsman Alfredo Arqueza became a US citizen aboard USS Green Bay (LPD 20), moored at San Francisco Pier 30/32, Embarcadero, on Monday, October 12.

Arqueza and nine other military personnel took their oath of citizenship at 11 a.m. on the Upper Vehicle Deck of the vessel which is part of the bay parade that signals the start of the US Navy's annual San Francisco Fleet Week celebration.

New citizens hail from the Philippines (3), Mexico (3), Indonesia, China, Nicaragua and Poland. Military services represented at the ceremony were Army, Army National Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard.

Naturalization is more than a mere formality for this husband and father. He came to the US in 2000 in search of a better life for his wife and four sons, now aged 23, 16, 15 and 7, who remained in the Philippines. Despite his absence, they have excelled academically and they seek his counsel.

His determination, positive attitude and faith have borne success but it has come at a price. He has missed the moments parents should enjoy as their children develop as people. The family is reunited briefly only when Arqueza has returned to the Philippines for a vacation. Moreover, life in the Philippines was tough. America has opportunities.

Now that he is a citizen, his wife and three youngest children will join him in a few months and, hopefully, it will not be too long before his oldest son follows.

Despite the kindness of the many friends Arqueza has made here, life has not always been easy for the 43 year-old. Originally, he lived in Fremont, where he worked as a certified nursing assistant, and East Oakland before settling in Hayward five years ago. The economic downturn has rendered his business, Rkeza Handyman Services, dormant. None of his former clients are spending and no new clients coming forward. He now works for AmeriPride Uniform Services.

As for US military service, he had hoped to enlist when he first arrived. When he eventually applied, the Army told him he was too old to join aged 38. Three years later, at a small gathering, attended by a National Guard recruiter, a friend jokingly asked Arqueza if he wanted to join the join the National Guard; he replied that he did, jokingly.

The next day, two National Guard recruiting officers arrived unannounced at Arqueza's home. They said that his friend had told them he wanted to join. He thought it was a practical joke and informed them he was 41 years-old. This was not a problem as the National Guard had increased their age limit to 42.

Arqueza agreed to take a test and was taken aback when they said he could do so there and then. Everything was on laptops. He passed, was sent to the Mountain View military entrance processing station the following day and accepted for basic training in Oklahoma where he passed everything before attending advanced training in Texas. He is a truck driver with the 2632nd Trans Co., San Bruno. The National Guard will pay for him to obtain his Class A license so he can drive big rigs.

He will not avail himself of the GI Bill. If he is deployed and returns, he will be allowed to pass the benefit to his children. The minors of a serviceman or servicewoman are entitled to their parents' education benefits under the GI Bill if the parent does not exercise the right to them and elects his or her children as the beneficiaries.

"For me, the priority is my kids. I want to be with my kids. Today's technology allows us to keep in touch - cell phones, texting and email - but it's no substitute for being together as a family," concluded Arqueza.

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