Sgt. Saral Shrestha, 24, who emigrated from his native Nepal many years ago, was the first immigrant in the military for decades to be named Soldier of Year. This is one of the greatest honors that can be received in the military and takes months, sometimes years, of preparation.
Sgt. Saral Shrestha grew up wanting to serve n the police or military in Nepal, but with his mother’s encouragement to further his education, he decided to come to the U.S. to study. He attended Bellevue University in Nebraska where he studied computer science and eventually joined the Army in 2009. He was admitted into the pilot program that selectively recruits immigrants with special medical and language skills. By this time, Sgt. Shrestha has already mastered 5 different languages.
In order to compete in the prestigious Best Warrior Competition, Shrestha was chosen along with eleven other soldiers after finishing his tour in Afghanistan. The competition contains both mental and physical challenges. The tests include, “searching for roadside bombs, completing written and oral exams, and performing first aid on wounded comrades.” In order to prepare for the competition, Shrestha memorized the Constitution, various army regulations, and had his wife constantly test him with flashcards. His hard work eventually paid off when he was announced the winner on October 22nd.
Prior to Shrestha’s accomplishment, the Pentagon had announced that it would once again begin allowing immigrants to participate in its MANVI, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, program. This program is specific to enlisting immigrants and provides benefits such as naturalizing people who complete the basic training program. It was suspended for a short time after the shooting in Fort Hood, Texas due to security concerns, despite the recruits performing higher on tests and having a lower attrition rate than native-born soldiers. With the program up and running once again, “the program will recruit 1,500 soldiers annually for the next two years, with a focus on dentists, surgeons, and trained psychologists.”
This program provides many benefits for immigrants who want to move to the U.S. After completing basic training, the immigrants are naturalized as long as they fulfill certain requirements such as completing a designated amount of time serving in the military. While this poses as a concern for some who enlist, Shrestha has no intention of leaving the Army any time soon. He is currently working on a master’s degree in computer science, plans on attending officer training school, and joining the Army’s Special Forces. We thank Sgt. Shrestha for his service to this country.
If you have any questions regarding the naturalization process or becoming a citizen in the U.S., contact us at 314-961-8200.