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If I had to describe the culture of my family in one word, it would be “resilient.” Every year, my father gets a new assignment… fight in the skies above Iraq, train future pilots in Mississippi, advise a four star general in Hawaii, and now, command an entire base in Texas. There is a motto in our branch of the military: “Home is where the Air Force sends us.” True to this sentiment, regardless of the disposition of my father’s new assignment, my family fights to remain strong. When orders come, we move, leaving behind our friendships and worldly attachments, but always taking a little bit of that place’s culture with us.
This transient lifestyle is not new to my parents. My mother is a product of the Vietnam war, born in Da Nang to a native mother and a U.S. Army officer before they immigrated to America and raised her, like me, as a military brat. My own father had a similar upbringing, living with his Army chaplain dad even during extended deployments in Panama before joining the force himself. Being raised in military households taught my parents to embrace the lifestyle they now choose to have. When given orders, one must accept them and make do with what one is given. Growing up in a household that upholds this philosophy — to make the most out of situations — has shaped me as a person. Because I often change schools every year, I cannot always devote myself to the same sports or extracurricular activities. For example, when my family moved to Hawaii, my new high school did not offer the robotics program in which I had excelled through my previous school in Mississippi. So I joined the debate team, and have managed to break into the state finals every year since.
In the same manner, living in 13 different places over the first 17 years of my life has impacted my view of the world and of what makes me feel at home. With every move, we add something to our family’s traditions. When my family moved from Hawaii to Texas, I brought with me a newfound passion for boxing (a required skill for youth growing up in the Pacific) and started a self-defense club at my current school. It is now impossible for my mom to cook fried rice without adding Spam. My baby brother still talks about paddle boarding in Hickam Harbor with the sea turtles. And sometimes, I think about the friends I used to have a move or two ago… I don’t wonder if they miss me, just if they remember me, whether I had any impact on their life, or if they would even recognize me today. Not whether I look the same, but how my behavior has changed… if I’ve really matured like I think I have, or if I’ve fundamentally changed as a person.
I was raised in a house characterized by resilience, a trait needed for the military lifestyle. I was also brought up in a dozen different societies, each showing me a different perspective on things and changing me in some way. At Boy’s State, I had the chance to interact with students from every corner of life in Texas. As I talked to them and befriended them, I realized something… no matter how different from me that person may seem to be, we could relate to each other. Regardless of whether we were strangers minutes before, we could become comfortable and share some of the things we experienced in our lives, because chances were that at some point, I had gone through something similar to them. My past has taught me many lessons. I hope for the chance to share them with my university.
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