TWENTY-NINE PALMS, California (CNN) -- U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Mario Ramos-Villalta flashes a broad smile from beneath his camouflage cap as he talks about the country he loves and why he became a Marine.
He's fought twice in Iraq and survived an attack on his Humvee in October 2005. Now, he's preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.
Yet he's not even an American. He's a citizen of El Salvador serving in the U.S. military.
"A lot of the papers I get [say], 'You're a great American,'" the 22-year-old Purple Heart recipient says. "I am not an American citizen yet, but I still fight for it."
He adds, "Sometimes, I do get depressed about still not being a U.S. citizen and going over there."
Ramos-Villalta isn't alone. He is one of an estimated 20,500 "non-U.S. citizens" -- dubbed "green-card warriors" -- serving in the military.
In the case of Ramos-Villalta, he says it's been a painstaking process because he's been deployed to war; he was wounded in action; and is now training for a third combat deployment, leaving him little time to deal with the paperwork and lawyers needed to file for citizenship.
"It's frustrating and sometimes I get real sad about it," he says. "There is nothing I can do about it. I mean it's not up to the military. It's up to Immigration Services."
Paperwork? Lawyers? Fuck that shit. This kid has bled for this country. It makes no difference that he did it in a criminal war. Youngsters don't know much or care about that. He is doing his best, and it sounds like he's doing it well.
Give these 'green-card warriors' their citizenship papers when they graduate from recruit training. If they're willing to fight for us, they should get instant citizenship if they want it.
'Semper Fi' my ass. Just more bureaucratic bungling sung to the tune of 'support the troops'. Shameful.