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Greenville Army Vet Gets Citizenship Instead of Deportation

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By Tom Flanigan

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-916212.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – A Greenville, Florida man who became an illegal alien due to a snafu by the U.S. Army is now a proud citizen and grateful to all those who helped him and his family. Tom Flanigan reports it's a happy end to a story that included the possibility of foreclosure, bankruptcy and deportation.

Axel Runtschke is proud to have served the country he came to as a child twenty years ago.

"I served from '97 to 2000. I was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky as a tank mechanic for the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank."

Runtschke was born in Germany. His army recruiter promised he'd become a U.S. citizen while in the service, but it never happened. Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson finally had to force immigration officials to grant Runtschke citizenship, and the ceremony took place last week in Jacksonville. On Friday, Nelson congratulated Runtschke by phone.

"And I'm just sorry that you had to go through all of the bureaucratic red tape that you did."

Runtschke, who has been jobless because of his non-citizen status, now has his sights set on admission to the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy.

"You know, what better way to give back to the community than in a law enforcement capacity, to serve the community that has so graciously stepped up and helped me when I needed help."

Help that included enough cash donations to save the family home from foreclosure. Runtschke says his first official act as a citizen is registering to vote.