Victor earns his American flag

Published 7:59 am Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nobody deserves an American flag more than Victor Nagpal.

And, there’s probably no one who appreciates the nation’s flag more.

For those reasons, two Troy University students presented an American flag to Victor Nagpal on Thursday in honor of his being a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

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At 2:30 p.m. on June 24, 2009, Victor Nagpal stood straight and tall in the Atlanta Field Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and took the oath of U.S. Citizenship.

No cameras flashed to preserve that special moment in time but that moment will be held closely in Victor’s heart “for the rest of my life.”

“I didn’t expect to become a naturalized citizen of the United States that day,” Victor said. “I went to Atlanta for my verbal interview but I was sure that I would have to come back to be sworn in. But it didn’t happen that way and it didn’t matter that we didn’t have a camera with us. I was so proud to be a citizen of this great country. I had wanted it for so long. And, my wife, Stephanie, was there to witness that great event so it is a special memory for both of us.”

Victor said he was well prepared for the verbal interview that would determine whether he was ready to take the oath of citizenship.

“I had studied and I was ready,” he said. “I had learned all of the questions that had been given to me. When we walked into the building that morning, my wife said, ‘Look. They are having a swearing in today at 2:30. Maybe that can be you.’ But I said, ‘no.’ I would just get approved.”

The examination officer selected questions from the U.S. History and Civic category of the test.

“You have 10 questions asked of you and you must get six right and, if you get the first six right, you don’t have to be questioned more,” Victor said, and added with a smile. “I got asked six questions.”

He will never forget the first question that he was asked, “What does freedom of religion mean?”

“I said that it means that you have the right to worship as you please or not to worship at all,” Victor said.

After he correctly answered six questions, he was asked if he wanted to take the oath of United States Citizenship that day.

“I was so happy, so happy,” Victor said. “I told her, ‘Oh, yes. Yes I do.’ I was so proud and so happy.”

Because his “swearing in” was not even a thought when the Nagpals left home that morning, they didn’t have a camera to capture the moment.

“But I couldn’t be disappointed about that, “ Victor said. “I was about to became a naturalized citizen of the United State. I could not be sad in any way.”

One hundred and twenty-eight immigrants of 50 different nationalities became naturalize citizens of the United States that day. Victor is sure that he was the happiest of them all.

When they left the immigration building, Victor’s wife reminded him that he had left his Green Card.

“I said that I don’t need that anymore,” Victor said. “I am now a citizen of the United States and I have this paper to show that I am.”

The very next day, Victor went to the Pike County Courthouse and registered to vote.

“I didn’t waste any time. Now I can have a vote and a voice,” he said. “I want to do good things for my community and my country.”

The next day he applied for a United States passport.

“I had to lose my Indian citizenship but I can apply to be an Overseas Citizen of India so that I can go to visit anytime that I want to without having to get permission,” Victor said. “I want dual citizenship because my parents and all of my family are in India.”

Victor said his parents are happy for him that he is now a citizen of the United States.

“They want me to be happy and they know how much I have wanted this and how happy it makes me,” he said. “They gave me their blessings.”

Victor came to the United States in 1992. He first found work in a retail store in Florida and then a friend told him about Troy, Alabama.

“They were looking for waiters at Mr. Ho’s and I love to wait tables,” Victor said. “That was 1997 and I wanted that job very much. I love people and God has given me the gift to be able to remember people and their names and, as long as I have this gift I will use it.”

Victor quickly became the most popular waiter in Troy and he secretly hoped and dreamed of one day owning a restaurant of his own. The dream came true a couple of years ago when he was able to purchase Mr. Ho’s.

“The dream for me was to own a business and to become a citizen of the United States of America,” he said.

“I am blessed. It’s so good to say, ‘I am Victor Negpal, a citizen of the United States of America.’”