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Slovak-American hero awarded U.S. citizenship

MARINE Platoon Sergeant Michael Strank, a native Slovak who gained international fame as one of six U.S. servicemen photographed raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, has been posthumously awarded a certificate of U.S. citizenship. The United States Embassy in Bratislava announced the award on July 31.

Mary Pero was presented with the U.S. citizenship certificate for her brother, Michael Strank.Mary Pero was presented with the U.S. citizenship certificate for her brother, Michael Strank. (Source: ČTK)

MARINE Platoon Sergeant Michael Strank, a native Slovak who gained international fame as one of six U.S. servicemen photographed raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, has been posthumously awarded a certificate of U.S. citizenship. The United States Embassy in Bratislava announced the award on July 31.

Although Strank, who was born in Jarabina, north-eastern Slovakia, and immigrated to America in 1922, became a U.S. citizen in 1935 when his father was naturalised, he never received a certificate of citizenship, as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously believed he was born in Pennsylvania.

The certificate was presented to Strank’s younger sister, Mary Pero, in a July 29 ceremony held in front of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington Cemetery that bears his likeness.

“As a fellow Slovak-American, I am very pleased that Marine Platoon Sgt. Michael Strank has finally gained official recognition as an American citizen. He was a truly patriotic and courageous Slovak-American hero who was willing to sacrifice his life in the service of his country,” said Ambassador Vincent Obsitnik.

Strank had served in the U.S. Marines for over five years when the famous photograph, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” by Joe Rosenthal appeared on February 19, 1945. He was killed in action on Iwo Jima less than two weeks after the Rosenthal photo, now one of the most copied images in history, was taken.

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