BEATRICE -- Oscar Vargas got stuck with number 59 out of 59.

He watched as everyone else walked up to District Court Judge John M. Gerrard, shook his hand, grabbed their paper and posed for dozens of photos.

He sat sweating on a folding chair as the sun shone on the grass of Homestead National Monument of America.

Wearing black dress pants, a white dress shirt and a red tie, he waited, just as he's been waiting his turn since 1998, the year he came here from Guatemala with his mother.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Vargas had been surrounded by people who like him had been waiting a long time for this day -- the day they officially became American citizens.

Vargas, and the 58 people in front of him, are the newest United States citizens. On Friday afternoon, people from Honduras, India, Vietnam, Germany, Ghana, Togo, Iran, Cuba, and China took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, the final step in becoming an American citizen.

The ceremony was held on Flag Day, which commemorates the Second Continental Congress' adoption of the American flag in 1777.

When President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation to observe the June 14 Flag Day on May 30, 1916, he called for the day to be filled with “special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America."

At Homestead on this Friday afternoon, the children of these new citizens, wearing sunglasses with stars and stripes, ran around waving American flags.

Representatives read statements of welcome from Sen. Mike Johanns, Sen. Deb Fischer, Rep.. Jeff Fortenberry and Rep. Adrian Smith.

Homestead historian Blake Bell encouraged the new citizens to embark on their American dream, just like other Americans have before them.

"The American dream is simple," Bell said. "It's hope."

Vargas, who lives in Omaha and works as a security supervisor at a casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, moved to the United States to be free from worry.

In Guatemala, Vargas said, his family lived from day-to-day, constantly worrying about what tomorrow might bring.

Living in the United States is a lot better, Vargas said, but it's been tough not being a citizen.

The process of becoming one also has been difficult. He applied for worker cards and residency cards. It was a long process and it cost him a lot of money.

And he missed out on the perks citizenship offers.

"I wanted to vote this year," Vargas said. "Guess I'll have to wait for the next one."

While Vargas waited, he talked with family and friends, about things like gas prices, comparing those in Omaha and Council Bluffs.

His nephew David Garcia stood behind Vargas’ chair, observing a ceremony he hopes to someday also take part in.

“I can’t wait,” Garcia said.

Juan Du Goracke, her fingernails painted red and blue, said she had been waiting three years for her chance to be an American.

She moved to Nebraska with her husband from China. They met while he, a native Nebraskan, was a Christian missionary in China. When his parents got sick, Goracke said, they decided it was time to come back to the United States and settle down.

“I’m excited,” Goracke said. “This is a great country. People are very nice.”

She said she was proud to be part of a country where people are willing to stand up for what they believe.

And finally, it was number 59’s turn.

Vargas walked up to the judge and took his paper. He posed for photos. He was mobbed with hugs by his family.

He was an American.

“No words describe it,” he said. “It feels really good.”

Reach Emily Nitcher at 402-473-2657 or enitcher@journalstar.com.