HELENA – Twenty-six people from 16 different countries became U.S. citizens on Thursday after taking the oath of allegiance at the Paul G. Hatfield federal courthouse in Helena.

U.S. District Court Judge Sam Haddon presided over the ceremony calling it “a particularly happy occasion.”

Haddon added every American family has a unique story and that uniqueness of every American is what makes the the country great.

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Helena mayor Wilmot Collins, a naturalized citizen himself, spoke at the event congratulating the new citizens. Collins said through dedication and hard work anything is possible for an American citizen.

Claudia Bayr-Nobel of Germany, spent eighteen years working in the county and found her husband here in the U.S. Nobel says she’s loved every part of becoming a citizen.

“People have been incredibly welcoming,” said Nobel. “It feels like you’re part of this great community here that I believe America stands for.”

Vincent Valentine of Cut Bank, MT said he’s dreamed of becoming an American citizen since he was 14 years old living in Russia.

“It’s been a long road to become a U.S. citizen and it’s great,” said Valentine, “Finally you’ve got all these rights and responsibilities so we’re really happy and proud.”

Valentine says that the first things he plans to do now that he’s a citizen is fill out his voter registration card, and purchase a Remington 590 Shockwave for himself.

The Oro Fino chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a reception after the ceremony and presented the new citizens with voter registration cards and American flag pins.

Last year there were 350 immigrants that became naturalized citizens in Montana.

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