Wounded Veteran Now A U.S. Citizen
Wounded army veteran Mariela Mason became a United States citizen on October 23rd in Livermore. Every veteran who has served during an authorized period of conflict is eligible for U.S. citizenship. Ms. Mason’s naturalization service took place in the dining room of the Livermore VA nursing home. The room was filled with friends, mostly those who have only known her since her accident like the Blue Star Riders, her family and several government representatives. They came to honor a woman who was never expected to come this far.
On December 19th 2004 Army Sergeant Mariela Mason was serving in Kuwait when she volunteered to help a woman change a tire on the side of the road. While helping the woman a car hit Ms. Mason along with three other people, tw o of w hom died. It was an accident that left her laying in a coma in a German VA hospital for seven months. When she did wake up her doctors told her that she would never walk again.
The naturalization ceremony was brief. Ms. Mason modestly kept her eyes lowered. She seemed uncomfortable with all the attention. When the representative from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that she was a citizen, Ms. Mason burst into tears. Her mother, only feet away, rushed over to comfort her. When I asked Ms. Mason how she felt about becoming a citizen she softly replied, “I feel that I was owed this when I first signed the paperwork [to enlist.]”
Mariela Mason was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. Her family moved to the United States in 1983 relocating to Livermore three years later. Her father, Emile Meylan, said they choose Livermore because the “houses were cheaper.” They never guessed that in twenty years they would be paying $2500 a month for their daught er’s m e dical bills. Although the physical therapy Ms. Mason receives from the VA hospital is free, she regularly sees a private physical therapist and seeks alternative treatments.
The Blue Star Riders, a non-profit group dedicated to supporting wounded veterans, donated a cane to Ms. Mason. Every week the group visits VA hospitals, outreach centers and attends memorial services for veterans. They regularly visit Ms. Mason. Richard Hamilton, the group’s founder was at the ceremony. “With Mariela there’s something special because she’s the first woman I met that was wounded . . . and she’s just the sweetest thing.”
Hamilton founded the group because he saw a need to support veterans. He noticed that there were local groups dedicated to supporting current soldiers but none that honored wounded veterans. Hamilton said that sometimes the veterans his group sees will not have any other visitors. “These kids have scarified their life and they can’t be forgotten.”
Ms. Ma so n’s medical bills, paid by her parents, have recently been augmented by local community support. The Livermore Valley Tennis Club hosted a fundraiser for her earlier this month. First Street Alehouse, also in Livermore, is currently accepting donations for Ms. Mason. On December 5th they plan to donate ten percent of their profits towards her care.
Ms. Mason encourages other veterans to “be strong in your mind. Show them that you can do it.” Ms. Mason, who to her doctors disbelief started walking this year, seems to have done just that.