KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The unique journey of one Missouri Guard member begins more than 6,500 miles away in Nigeria.
New recruit, Army Pvt. Precious Abraham, spent his first 22 years in Nigeria before coming to America to embark on a journey setting him up for success. In 2010 he left the only life he knew in Africa, along with his Family, in search of a better future.
"For me, to be an American citizen, it is a very great thing I have achieved," Abraham said. "Everywhere I go in the world I know that I'm proud to be an American citizen. America is the best country, unlike my country where there is corruption and illegality down there.
"In the United States everything is so organized. I love to be a citizen of a country that is good," he said.
Abraham came to Missouri to study nursing at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. It is there he met and married his wife, Margaret. She, too, is a foreign national who happens to be from Sierra Leone, about 1,400 miles from his home country. Margaret is a student at UCM and is slated to graduate with a biology degree this spring.
The huge transition did not come without sacrifice. Abraham had to give up his Nigerian citizenship, but does not regret the trade-off.
"Most people in Africa want the best," he said. "The United States is the best, best in education, best in everything. I come to the United States for the best."
Once in Missouri, Abraham began to consider what opportunities awaited him in the National Guard.
"I discussed joining with my parents and they approved of it because I told them all of the benefits, like paying for my school tuition," Abraham said. "They believed in what I wanted to do."
Serving in the military was always something Abraham had been interested in, but said he never had the right guidance to follow through with it.
"When I was young I was always passionate about joining the force," he said. "I had nobody to encourage me or to push me through. When I came to the United States, the encouragement and the support was there. I was like, wow, this is a great opportunity for me to go ahead and join."
Abraham's recruiter, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Neighbors, met him through a referral. Neighbors was very impressed with the bright, young man, and his eagerness to serve. Once his training is complete, Abraham will be a cannon crewmember with Battery D, 1-129th Field Artillery in Independence.
"He's really amazed at how together our country is-how organized the United States is and how cool it is," Neighbors said. "He loves it here and wants to be a part of it. He has a different perspective on this than a lot of people. Delta Battery is excited to have him."
It goes without saying Abraham may have more obstacles before him at basic training than most recruits, but Neighbors is confident he will do well. He said Abraham grew up bilingual and has always spoke English, so the language barrier should not be too difficult.
"I think the cultural differences will probably be the biggest hurdle," Neighbors said.
The decision to serve as a citizen-Soldier wasn't just for practical reasons - though what Abraham stands to gain is substantial - he also wants to give back to the country that is doing so much for him.
"When I enlisted I was very happy," Abraham said. "I'm happy I'm supporting the U.S. government. It brings great joy to me."
With the 2012 presidential election not too far off in the distance, Abraham anxiously awaits to have his voice heard and cast his ballot as a new citizen-one of the very liberties he now defends for all Americans. He cannot help but grin from ear to ear when talking about it.
"I will be very happy for me to vote," he said. "I'll be very, very happy."