LONGMONT, Colo. — A 71-year-old Vietnam veteran living in hospice care had one more milestone to mark off his bucket list: become a U.S. citizen.
Today, he got that wish.
Werner Trei, who's been living at the Peaks Care Center in Longmont, was naturalized today.
“That was his dream since he came back from Vietnam,” said his sister Hilde Lowry. “It’s been a long journey, but we had so many people working for us and helping supporting us, and today it’s come true.”
Trei was 18 and had just finished high school when he was drafted. He became a U.S. Army Ranger and reluctantly took a job no one else wanted in Vietnam.
"Tunnel rat," Trei explained. "[I'd] go in the tunnel and kill the snakes and remove any booby traps.”
Trei said he was chosen for the job because he was the smallest of the group. He served two years, made it home and was awarded three bronze stars and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross.
"I did the best job I could do,” Trei said.
Despite the medals, the nation Trei called home would not call him a citizen.
"When he got drafted, they said that he would be a citizen, get his citizenship when he got out, and that never happened,” Lowry said.
The siblings were born in Germany and came to the states as kids. Hilde became a citizen at age 18. Trei said he wished he’d done the same before he got sick.
“Yes it was very important,” Trei said.
Today Trei said he was happy that his mother was proud he'd become a U.S. citizen.
“He was in the service…he should be,” said his mother, Gerda Trei. “He did fight for his country.”
“I actually get to vote in my first election,” Trei said. “I feel like I’m part of this country.”
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