When Filipino-born Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, 33, died for the United States during combat in Iraq on March 27, he was not a U.S. citizen. By the time he is buried in Tracy, Calif., later this week, he will have become an American.

Menusa’s widow, Stacy, was visiting her parents in the Santa Maria area of northern Santa Barbara County when she heard her husband had died of a gunshot wound during battle.

With help from a Filipino advocacy group, the Dept. of Defense, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) and aides from the office of Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), the Menusa family was able to speed a government process that grants posthumous citizenship to noncitizens killed while serving in the U.S. military.

Stacy learned last Friday from the Marine Corps that her husband’s citizenship application had been granted. She said she cried tears of joy when she was informed and that she knew her husband was “jumping for joy up in heaven” at the news.

Capps said in a statement that Menusa made the ultimate sacrifice for his nation in dying while wearing an American uniform.

“I was proud to work on behalf of his family to ensure that he was honored with American citizenship,” Capps said. “This is just one small way we can demonstrate our gratitude for his courageous service in defending our nation.”

Last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would rush the posthumous citizenship process for families of green card-holding veterans.

BCIS has processed eight applications for posthumous citizenship since the war in Iraq began.

“I am so pleased that we could be of help to the Menusa family during this difficult time,” Capps said. “The last thing they should worry about is navigating a federal bureaucracy as they prepare to say goodbye to their son, husband and father. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we join them in paying tribute to this brave Marine. He was indeed a true American.”