Marine Staff Sgt. Riayan A. Tejeda

Marine Staff Sgt. Riayan A. Tejeda

Died April 11, 2003 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

26, of New York, N.Y.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed April 11 during combat operations against enemy forces in northeast Baghdad.

Marine posthumously made U.S. citizen

NEW YORK — A Marine who died in Iraq before becoming an American citizen was posthumously given citizenship in a ceremony at his family’s home. Staff Sgt. Riayan Tejeda, of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was killed April 11 during combat in Baghdad. Tejeda, 26, immigrated from the Dominican Republic as a child and grew up in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. Tejeda, who had been based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., served eight years in the Marines before he died and was the father of two daughters, ages 3 and 6 Steven Farquharson, acting regional director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, presented a certificate of citizenship to Tejeda’s parents in a brief ceremony at their Washington Heights home on Wednesday. There are more than 31,000 noncitizens serving in the U.S. armed forces, according to the Defense Department.

Associated Press

Riayan Tejeda’s dream was to become a Marine and a U.S. citizen. He joined the Marines immediately after graduating from George Washington High School in New York City. He was killed during a firefight in Baghdad. A native of the Dominican Republic, Tejada was one of the approximately 31,000 men and women on active-duty in the military who are legal residents of the United States but are not citizens. Candles burned outside the Tejeda family’s door in New York City, where a photo of Riayan was posted along with the words “Our Hero.” “They don’t tell me exactly what happened,” his father, Julio Tejeda, said. “They only come to my house and say they have bad news for me: My son has been killed in the fighting in Iraq. “He loved being in the Marines and fighting for this country,” he added, but “eight years in the Marines and they never gave him citizenship. It’s too late. A piece of paper won’t bring back my son.” Julio Tejeda said his son loved his mother, salsa and merengue music. “People all over the neighborhood knew him because he was always smiling. He was not just a son, but a friend. “I will always love him until the end of time.” He is survived by two daughters, ages 3 and 6, Gunnery Sgt. Luz Fontaine said. Tejeda “pledged his loyalty and ultimately his life to his adopted nation,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at his funeral. Although Tejeda had not yet become an American citizen, “we are proud he was a citizen of New York, including New York City’s Dominican community,” the mayor said.

USA Today, Associated Press

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