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Prosperity in the face of adversity

Senior Airman Lin Evenson, 99th Aerospace Medical Squadron ophthalmic technician, poses for a photo in her office on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Evenson joined the Air Force when she was 20 years old. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Senior Airman Lin Evenson, 99th Aerospace Medical Squadron ophthalmic technician, poses for a photo in her office on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Evenson joined the Air Force when she was 20 years old. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Senior Airman Lin Evenson, 99th Aerospace Medical Squadron ophthalmic technician, poses for a photo in her office on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Evenson went from being a poor orphan in China to a successful Airman in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Senior Airman Lin Evenson, 99th Aerospace Medical Squadron ophthalmic technician, poses for a photo in her office on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Evenson went from being a poor orphan in China to a successful Airman in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- On a cold March night in 1995, a newborn baby girl was left swaddled on a dark and desolate bridge in Huai’an, China. Now, that abandoned child has grown and prospered into a 99th Aerospace Medical Squadron ophthalmic technician.

With her inviting smile and exuberant personality, it’s hard to believe that Senior Airman Lin Evenson has endured multiple devastating hardships in her life.

From being abandoned on the streets of China, to having her adoptive father die when she was a child, to being readopted into a family from the opposite side of the world, Evenson encountered hardships that not only taught her resilience, but also tested her on it.

One must have strength in order to be resilient; that strength can come from loved ones. Evenson owes her initial strength to her first adoptive father. He found Evenson when she was just 17 days old and raised her as his own. Although her father didn’t have much to offer, he gave everything he had to Evenson to make sure she was safe and loved.

Evenson spent her early childhood living in a single room with him; they had no restroom or utilities and only had one change of clothes each.

“We lived in poverty,” said Evenson. “Despite that, my dad always made sure I was happy and healthy. He didn’t care what people thought about us; all he cared about was me.”

His confidence and determination helped shape Evenson’s personality.

“Watching him take on such a big responsibility on his own and always striving to take care of me inspired me as a child to be strong the way he was,” said Evenson.

When she was six years old, Evenson was eventually forced to find the strength to mirror her father’s resiliency when he passed away in his sleep, leaving her as an orphan for the second time in her life.

“I had never witnessed death before and to lose someone so close was too much to handle, especially being that young,” said Evenson.

Evenson said when she found out about his death she went numb.

“The only family I knew was gone,” said Evenson. “It was hard to be that young and go back to having nothing. I felt scared and alone.”

Evenson was placed in an orphanage after her father’s death. Upon walking past the entrance gates, she was taken back by the towering brick building with countless barred windows lining the sides and a childless park in the back yard.

“My initial thought of the orphanage was it was a horrible place,” said Evenson. “I cried when I was dropped off. I was terrified.”

The orphanage children spent their days either in their bedrooms or the dayrooms where they’d interact with each other through games and conversations. Evenson and her roommate often spoke about getting adopted. While Evenson remained hopeful and positive, her roommate had a more discouraged mindset.

“Older kids like my roommate and I would worry about not getting adopted because of what happens to orphans once they turn 15 years old,” said Evenson. “If a child isn’t adopted by the age of 15, their paperwork is cut off and they’re put out on the streets.”

Often having little to no education, the older orphans are forced to beg on the streets or become factory workers when they’re put out.

“The orphanage did everything they could to make sure I was adopted in time,” said Evenson. “After changing my age to make me seem younger, I was finally notified that I was going to be adopted by a family living in the United States.”

As an older child getting adopted into a foreign family, Evenson had more obstacles in her way that would test her resiliency.

“Learning a new language was difficult in the beginning,” said Evenson. “But, my adoptive mother worked hard every day to make sure I could completely communicate with others.”

Evenson said her biggest struggle with her new language was pronouns and pronunciation. Evenson’s mother spent one year home schooling her. To strengthen her grip on the English language, her mom would spend numerous hours every day pronouncing words repeatedly with her until she was able to get it right. Evenson’s adoptive father also contributed to her learning process by creating child-friendly educational games.

“My [new] father helped me better understand English by teaching me how to use the dictionary and then turning it into a learning game,” said Evenson. “We would race to see who could find the word and read it the fastest.”

After grasping the basics of her new language, Evenson was enrolled in school where her passion to learn and understand all she possibly could was sparked by her classmates.

“I’m competitive by nature,” said Evenson. “So sitting in a classroom full of kids who were reading better than me really motivated me to work harder.”

After spending years struggling to fully understand, Evenson was able to learn the language and culture of her new family through their support and motivation, and her newfound faith.

“Faith was a big part of my strength and resilience during my struggles,” said Evenson. “I believed there was a reason I was adopted into an American family, and I was focused on following that path and figuring out my purpose.”

After being able to bounce back from the challenges of her youth, Evenson tackled a new obstacle in an attempt to find her purpose: joining the Air Force. As a 20-year-old college student working part time in a busy kitchen to pay her tuition, Evenson realized she wasn’t on a path that truly made her happy.

“I felt that my progress in life was too slow, and I was in a rut,” said Evenson.

Evenson explored her options and decided that the Air Force was the best choice for her.

“I’d come to truly love America,” said Evenson. “I wanted to give back to the country that had given me the freedom and opportunity to have a successful life.”

Because of her unique citizenship situation, Evenson’s enlistment process took a bit longer than usual. She was required to submit more paperwork which led to her and her family to reach out to multiple places in China to get hard copies of every document needed.

After months of tracking down paperwork, Evenson was finally ready to enlist.

“I was determined to join and wasn’t going to let anything get in my way,” said Evenson. “I fought tooth and nail to become an Airman.”

Evenson said her current obstacles aren’t as severe as her past ones.

“My current challenges are mostly just career, education and relationship ones,” said Evenson. “I’m trying to figure out the kind of future I want for myself.”

Evenson said, if problems were to arise she isn’t worried and is confident she will be able to handle it.

“Every area of life has challenges,” said Evenson. “I remember what I’ve gone through. So, when hardships come up, I remind myself that I’ve been through worse and I can make it through anything.”