By Ryan Labadens
NCBC Public Affairs
All people have different paths they want to take in life, depending on their interests and desires. Jula Barr’s path is one that led her not only to a family and a job she loves, but to becoming a citizen of the country she loves.
Barr, the Child and Youth Program assistant director at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, is originally an Italian citizen who grew up in Sicily, Italy. Barr had traveled frequently throughout Europe with her family, but had never visited the United States or anywhere overseas previously.
Through a friend of hers she met her future husband, a U.S. Navy Seabee, Construction Electrician 1st Class Rodney Barr, who happened to be stationed at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in 2001.
“To this day I still blush, but when I first saw him, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I really like this guy,’” said Barr with a smile.
Using her Italian passport, she came with him to his home town of Neeses, South Carolina, to meet his family a couple of times before she and her husband finally got married in the United States in October 2002. After their marriage she was able to apply for her Permanent Resident (Green) Card so that she could live and work in the states.
“It was a lot of paperwork, but we got help at the (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office in New Orleans, where they helped us with filling out all the paperwork,” said Barr. “And they also do a background check, and an interview – and the lady we worked with was really helpful, so within a year I got my permanent residence.”
They moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, since her husband was stationed at NCBC Gulfport at that time. She started working her first job in the United States here as a cashier, but she said she always knew the desire of her heart was to work with children. In high schools in Italy at the time, Barr was able to specialize in the type of career path she would like to take, so she focused on education with young children, and after about three months she was able to get a job on base at the Child Development Center (CDC). They also had their son, James, while they were still here in 2004.
They all moved back and forth in the states and to Italy over the year, depending on where Rodney Barr was stationed throughout the years, but eventually they found their way back to Gulfport in December 2010, where Barr was able to begin working again on base at the CDC.
In 2016, when it came time for her to renew her Green Card, she thought about her husband and son – who was 13 at the time – and her job at the Child Development Center and how much the people there felt like family to her.
“I thought to myself, ‘You know what, my life is going to be here,’” said Barr. “I will always be able to travel to go see make parents in Italy, but I wanted to be here. I had always felt like an American in my heart, but it wasn’t official yet. And I wanted to make it official.”
That’s when Barr decided to make the commitment to pursue becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Barr said that for her, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen took about a year from when she first submitted the application, and it involved several steps, which included submitting an application for naturalization, going through an interview and taking the U.S. Naturalization Test.
“It’s all detailed on the immigration website, and it provided all the information I needed to help get me through the steps to becoming an American citizen,” said Barr, who noted the information on how to become a U.S. citizen is available at https://www.usa.gov/become-us-citizen.
After going through the whole process, finally on November 2, 2017, Barr swore the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
“I felt privileged because we got to do it here in Gulfport,” said Barr, who took the oath with more than 20 other people from other countries in the Gulfport Municipal Court. “It was a wonderful diversity of culture, seeing all these people from around the world who had come here.”
Barr smiled when she recalled how proud her husband and son were of her after she took the oath. She said she would definitely recommend to any permanent residents who are considering becoming citizens to take the plunge.
“Go for it!” said Barr. “I only wish I had done it sooner – and given the opportunity, I would do it all over again. Today, I am proud to call myself American, and I want to thank those who have helped me reach this wonderful milestone. I am particularly grateful to the values in this country, and the sacrifices that others, including the military, have made to make it possible for me to be where I am.”