Wednesday, March 13
Buser caps emotional week with citizenship pledge

Associated Press

NOME, Alaska -- Iditarod champion Martin Buser took the oath of citizenship Wednesday from a judge in a parka and a polar bear hat at the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The ceremony was held one day after the Swiss-born musher won the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome in record time.

With his wife, Kathy Chapoton, and sons, Nikolai and Rohn, beside him and dozens of friends and fans looking on, Buser held up his right hand and renounced his allegiance to any foreign nation and pledged to defend the United States Constitution.

A brisk wind whipped a large American flag hanging from the burled arch that marks the finish line as Alaska Superior Court Judge Ben Esch administered the oath. Esch then handed Buser his certificate of naturalization.

"Now I'm legal," Buser said after taking the oath and a loud cheer went up from the crowd.

Buser, 44, was born in Winterthur, Switzerland, and has lived in Alaska since 1979. His decision to become a United States citizen was motivated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said.

"It was time to fish or cut bait," Buser said. "Now I'll get to vote."

Prior to that, Buser said, he had not been ready to renounce his Swiss citizenship.

The ceremony was marked by patriotic songs that brought tears to the eyes of both Buser and his wife. Kathy Chapoton said she had never encouraged her husband to become a U.S. citizen.

"You have to renounce your country," she said, pausing as her eyes filled with tears. "He had to come to it on his own.

"It's just a fairy tale day. I don't want this to end," she said.

Buser shared the same feelings.

"I've got the greatest family, the greatest dog team," he said. "This day is full of superlatives."

The arrival of musher Al Hardman of Ludington, Mich. at the finish chute brought the ceremony to a close, with Buser helping to guide the team through the crowd.

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