People make opportunity

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (ACCNS) -- After 10 years of waiting, it was my dream come true when I received a visa letter from the U.S. Consulate. I still remember the moment, viewing the Statue of Liberty over the New York City sky when my plane was about to touch the "Land of Opportunity." 

I emigrated from India along with my parents and brother in 1990. Being new to the United States and with limited financial resources, I started working two jobs, seven days a week, to support myself and my parents. I worked as a cashier during the day and in a factory at night. I commuted by bicycle everyday, summer and winter, 40 minutes each way, to earn my living. 

My ambition was to be educated and have a challenging career. My bachelor of commerce degree (in accounting/auditing) from India didn't equate to an equivalent bachelor's degree here due to the differences in educational system and course requirements, so I started taking courses at the local community college while working part time. 

However, my brother who was helping with my tuition at the time, got laid-off and I had to quit school. 

By now I realized that you don't always get what you wish for but I kept up my positive energy believing when one door closes then the other opens up. I decided to join the armed forces and enlisted in the Air Force in 1993. 

My income as an NCO allowed me to go back to school part-time to complete undergraduate courses. Because of my duty hours and frequent course cancellations, I wasn't able to make much progress towards my educational goal. With great determination to earn my bachelor's degree and with the financial support of the Montgomery GI bill, I decided to attend school full-time in 1997 while serving as a reservist with the Air National Guard. 

In 2000, I graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering. I'm grateful to my parents and aunt who made it possible for me to come to this country, I'm equally thankful to the Air Force for allowing me to take advantage of the GI bill that financed my education. 

In 2001, I received my commission as an Air Force officer. I have made the most of every opportunity afforded to me. I'm now an engineer, a student pilot, and professional linguist for an international affairs program, native-fluent in four of the Southeast Asia region languages, with more than 12 years of varying active duty experiences. My wife and I have a 3-year-old son, and we also take care of our parents. I believe it's never too late in your life to be something, if you have true desire and determination. 

I've been tremendously blessed in my personal and professional life and I owe a great deal to those Air Force leaders, mentors, and peers who helped me. The Air Force has given back 10 times what I've contributed, and I'm profoundly grateful. 

I cannot fully express how honored I am to be part of this team and one big Air Force family. When I put on the uniform in 1993, I never imagined I would come this far. The men and women of the armed forces represent the very best of American values: integrity, compassion, commitment, and selflessness. It has been a constant privilege to serve beside them everyday. After meeting many at leadership and other military education schools, and at bases and deployed locations around the world, I am fully confident that America's future is in good hands. 

I thank all of you for your service, and thank your families for their patience and support.