GRAND OLD FLAG -- As a gift to commemorate being sworn in as a citizen, Helga Bray's family presented her with her own American flag. Courtesy Photo.
GRAND OLD FLAG -- As a gift to commemorate being sworn in as a citizen, Helga Bray's family presented her with her own American flag. Courtesy Photo.

After decades of going through the process of becoming an American, Hedwig Helga Bray formally joined the nation, raising her right hand and taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen Thursday.

Bray worked hards for years toward the event, studying for the citizenship test and swearing to renounce citizenship from her native land, Germany, and swear allegiance to the United States. Bray first put in for citizenship in 1987, but had to start the process all over in 1994, after she moved back to Germany with her husband, Tony, after the birth of their first son. After the birth of their second son, they decided to move back to Cherryvale.

"It's great to finally have it done," said Tony. "She's so stoked to be an American."

Bray met her husband in Stuttgart, and the pair was married Oct. 10, 1985 -- a year and five days after they first met at a festival. The Brays now have three children, Johnnathan, Jennifer and James, all of who are grown and have served or are serving the U.S. in the armed forces. Currently, both Brays work at the U.S. Post Office in Independence. 

Bray passed her citizenship test and was sworn in as a citizen July 18 in Wichita. In total, 172 people from 47 different countries were sworn in as citizens during the ceremony, including the Philippines, Spain, India, Vietnam, Cananda and Israel. 

After the formal ceremony, happily surrounded by her loved ones, Bray and her family celebrated by enjoying her first meal as a recognized American, Italian food.