Haitian immigrant joins Ohio National Guard, fulfills quest for U.S. citizenship
Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
COLUMBUS, Ohio (01/13/22)
An Ohio National Guard Soldier who has helped provide varied support during Ohio’s COVID-19 response became an American citizen last year after coming from Haiti more than a decade ago.
Spc. Matthieu Henry, a radiology specialist assigned to the 285th Medical Company, based in Columbus, took time off from his duties working at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank in Grove City, Ohio to attend his citizenship ceremony in the spring of 2021.
Henry, born in Haiti, has been studying and working in the United States since 2007. He originally began studying nursing in Massachusetts but ultimately changed his focus and moved to Columbus to study culinary arts. He worked as a chef for the Columbus Blue Jackets, cooking for the players and members of the media at Nationwide Arena, later moving to New Mexico to work as a sous chef.
Still having a desire to be in the medical field, Henry looked at opportunities in the National Guard, joining in 2019 to become a radiology specialist. His 46-weeklong training was made even more complicated as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world.
“I always wanted to join the military, but it took a while because there is a whole process,” Henry said.
“I always wanted to join the military, but it took a while because there is a whole process.”
With the hospital at Fort Campbell, Ky. taking additional safety precautions, Henry and the other students had to practice and train on each other to maximize safety and limit exposure to themselves and patients. Graduating from his training in July 2020, Henry came home and soon after attended annual training with his unit, which asked him if he would like to volunteer to be a part of Ohio’s COVID-19 response.
In addition to working at the largest regional food bank in Central Ohio, Henry has also provided support for vaccination and testing efforts throughout the state, serving his fellow Ohioans who have been impacted by the pandemic in yet another way.
“I feel good because you know that what you’re doing is for people that are really in need,” Henry said.
Prior to receiving his residency status, which allowed him to join the Army, Henry was covered under a temporary protected status following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010. After the earthquake, many of the restrictions on Haitian immigrants in the U.S. were waived due to the extreme hardships caused by the devastation in their home country, which killed about 220,000 people.
Henry gained his citizenship during a small ceremony in April 2021 at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, with close family in attendance.
With the certifications and associate’s degree that Henry received as part of his military training, he has also secured a job as a radiological technician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital near downtown Columbus.
Henry’s future goals, once the pandemic is over, is to pursue a bachelor’s degree while also continuing to grow in his military career.
“I keep going for what I want,” Henry said. “Even though sometimes it may seem hard, I just keep pushing.”