BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Was it a stroke of luck or a mother’s prayer that landed one Coast Guard serviceman a visa to America? He says it’s a combination of both.

Gigi Barnett has more on his quest to become a U.S. citizen and how he’s serving the nation in return.

As a boy growing up in Nigeria, Coast Guard marine inspector Shehu Bello watched many American movies. Many of them were about the Coast Guard, and Bello had a secret dream to join one day.

“Everytime there was a scene on the water, you always see the Coast Guard. So, I knew about the Coast Guard,” Bello said.

But he had no friends in America, no scholarships to school and no money for a trip abroad. But his mother heard about an American visa lottery. It was a chance to go to the United States, something she wanted for her 15 children.

“She felt one day she was going to visit America and she knew she couldn’t come right now, but she believed that her children should, a son or one of her kids would be there,” Bello said.

She tried to enter Bello’s older brother — Jabril — into the lottery, but he was away at school. So she sent Bello’s name instead.

“She told me, ‘Take your passport that meets the requirement and go ahead and play the lottery for you,’” Bello said. “Obviously, I was laughing.”

He didn’t laugh long. Eight months later, the gamble paid off and the visa came through.

“She was just dancing and so excited,” Bello said. “Everybody was just so excited.”

That was eight years ago, and Bello joined the Coast Guard upon arrival.

This week, he shared his story with fellow service members. He inspects marine vessels. It’s his way to give back to the United States and help family in Nigeria.

“Every time I walk through that gate, I always say a prayer for the Coast Guard,” Bello said.

While Bello misses his family back in Nigeria, he’s made many friends here in the United States. Some of them are from his homeland. They won a spot in the American visa lottery, as well.

Bello’s father was a member of the Nigerian Army. He says that influenced his decision to join the armed forces. Meanwhile, Bello was able to fast-track his citizenship a few years ago because he’s an officer in the Coast Guard.


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