By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
This Thanksgiving will have a slightly different meaning to Donald and Gwen Wilkinson and their family. They became naturalized U.S. citizens this year.
As a matter of fact, Gwen took her oath Monday in Omaha. Donald took his Oct. 18.
Gwen, 44, grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Donald, 46, was born in Dublin, Ireland, but his family moved to England when he was 12 years old.
The couple met when Gwen was working in London one summer during college. Donald was working in London, also, and talked Gwen into returning for two more summers. They were married in Canada, and then lived in London.
During a “green card lottery” Donald won a green card in 1992. Since they were married, Gwen automatically received one. A green card allows a citizen from another country to work in the United States.
Donald wanted to work in agriculture, so the couple moved to Houston several months later. They first had to take a physical and pass a background check. Donald also had to have a job offer before they could move to the U.S.
They didn’t really like Houston, Gwen said, so moved to Denver, where they lived for 13 years.
Donald then took a ranch management course in Kansas, and they moved to Hayes County in 2007.
He then accepted a position on Kent and Rhonda Kroeker’s ranch and farm in Perkins County, and they moved just southeast of Grant last summer.
Gwen, however, has worked as a marketing coordinator/assistant office manager for Moreland Realty for three years.
The Wilkinsons were trying to get their naturalization papers at the same time. They were actually on their way to Omaha when Gwen received word that her grandmother, who was 96 and lived in Calgary, had died.
When they got to the federal building downtown, where the process occurs, Gwen was told that it would be better if she didn’t take the oath, because she would then lose her green card.
She was told that if she attended her grandmother’s funeral, there was a chance she wouldn’t be allowed back in the U.S.
So the couple took the test and had their interviews, and Donald took his oath.
The Wilkinsons had thought about applying for U.S. citizenship before, but “never got around to it. We were really busy,” Gwen said last week.
“Part of it was not being sure” about giving up Donald’s Irish citizenship, Gwen said. If he did that he couldn’t go back there to live, and his family still resides in England and Ireland.
Gwen’s parents still live in Edmonton, too, but she was told she could be a dual citizen. “It’s kind of the idea that you could never go back and our parents are there,” she explained of their hesitancy in applying.
However, her dual citizenship makes it easier for Gwen to spend prolonged time with her parents, should they become infirm. If she had retained her green card and spent more than six months with them, she would have lost her residency in the U.S.
Gwen said becoming naturalized creates mixed emotions. “We’ve been here so long we feel like Americans, but it’s not our background. You can’t forget where you came from.”
When Gwen took her oath Monday, she, along with others obtaining their citizenship, said the Pledge of Allegiance in English. They turned over their green cards, and received their naturalization certificates.
Gwen hoped to take son Aiden, 14, with her to see the ceremony. Son Craig, 9, was able to see Donald receive his certificate in October.
The boys are students at Chase County Schools. Because of their parents’ Irish and Canadian citizenships, they are citizens of both of the “old,” and the new countries of their parents.