This is a story about two new Americans: Webton Webley, a 26-year-old active service member of the U.S. Army, and his wife 23-year-old Sherell Perry-Webley, an U.S. Army reservist.
Sherell's and Webton's lives in the U.S. have been closely intertwined. They went to the same high school in Jamaica, and Sherell eventually got a green card through her mom, who was living in Fort Lauderdale. Webton arrived to Florida on a visa to study at Miami-Dade College. Webton says that's actually the first place they spoke.
"I saw her at school, and I said, 'I know that girl,'" he remembers.
Webton says Sherell didn't want to go out to lunch at first. She just remembers she was distracted with other things.
"I was in college,” she says. “I was busy studying, doing things college students do."
Eventually, they started spending time together, but after school Webton wanted to move back and join the Jamaica Defence Force. Sherell wanted to stay and join the U.S. Army.
As she remembers it: "It would never make sense for him to go back, so it was kind of like, 'OK. You got your degree here. There are more opportunities here.'"
As Webton remembers it: "I'm like, ‘OK. I found someone that I really care about, so if I leave here, not knowing what the future holds, this might be where I want to spend the rest of my life with a person.’ So I gave it a shot."
Service To Country
So they stayed. Sherell went to boot camp and became a carpentry masonry specialist. She became a U.S. citizen two years ago. Webton followed and became a cargo specialist. Before his citizenship ceremony on Veteran's Day, he talked about his gratitude to the United States and to the Army.
"It's not everyone who gets a chance to be in the military,” Webton says. “It's always an honor to wear that uniform."
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 78,000 members of the Armed Forces became U.S. Citizens while serving the country. In North Carolina, more than 160 have been naturalized this year, many stationed in Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.
In a special ceremony, Webton and five others took their last step to become U.S. citizens at a special Veterans Day ceremony on Tuesday at the Durham County Health and Human Services. Webton took the oath beside:
Alma Lopez Oliveros, who serves in the U.S. Army, and is a native of Mexico; Fan Wang, who serves in the U.S. Army and is a native of China; Diego Perez Varela, who serves in the U.S. Army and is a native of El Salvador; Fabiola Ten, who served in the U.S. Air Force and is a native of the Dominican Republic; and Luis Martinez, who served tours with U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq and is a native of Mexico.
After the ceremony, Webton and Sherell couldn't contain their excitement.
"I'm feeling really good today,” Webton says. “It's been a milestone that I just achieved."
Sherell says she’s really proud that Webton got to be sworn in on Veteran's Day, and that she's happy about another milestone they have coming up.
"It's like a blessing for us this year ... Because one, I'm expecting, it's like, it's great. Good, I'll be able to tell my child, 'Dad became a citizen while you were in mommy's tummy.' It's wonderful," she says.
Sherell's due date is April 28, 2015. She says their baby will be born in North Carolina, a natural born U.S. citizen.
CORRECTION, Nov. 12, 2014, 2:30 p.m.: More than 78,000 members of the Armed Forces have become U.S. Citizens while serving the country since Sept. 11, 2001. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it was since 2011.