From Asia to America: Airman joins Air Force to support family

  • Published
  • By A1C Clinton Atkins
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Editor's Note: This article is the first in a series highlighting Airmen at Hanscom from foreign countries.

The Philippines are approximately 8,500 miles from Hanscom. For one Airman, however, miles weren't the only obstacles to overcome.

The family came to the U.S. in search of a better life and opportunities.
James grew up on a rice farm in the Philippines, but his father had a different plan in mind for his family. "He wanted us to make our own choices in life and for us to be whatever we wanted to be," James said. His father said the best place to do that would be the U.S.

"It was hard to adjust to the American lifestyle at first," James said. "I had to get used to how everything works in the U.S., and I had to find new friends.

"I guess growing up back home on a farm and then moving to a very crowded city in a foreign country was just a little too big of a change for me," James said. "It took me a while to get used to the city life, also it seemed like everything was so fast paced."

James gained the responsibility of looking after his brothers and sister, because his parents were always working. He enrolled in the ninth grade at Ferris High School in Jersey City.

"The school was very different from what I was used to," he said. "I never interacted with people of other nationalities before I came to the U.S.

"I was clueless on my first day at school," James said. "I was already behind in class since I got there in November."

James said the curriculum was very different and all of his classes were in English.
Aside from school, James was forced to make other adjustments, which were difficult for him.

He traded in the open countryside for paved roads and tall buildings, a tropical climate for snowy winters. "I was very excited to see snow for the first time," James said. "It was something I always dreamed of seeing when I was little."

Another dream he eventually came to realize was serving in the military.

James' uncle died in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which made James realize that, even at the age 15, life is short. "Many people take too many things for granted," he said. His desire to serve in the military grew stronger.

"I always wanted to be a police officer or a Soldier as a kid," James said. "I've always admired the heroic actions of the soldiers and law enforcers I've seen on TV."

His father passed away due to diabetes complications just a year later in November 2002. "My older bother and I were asked by my mom if we still wanted to stay in the U.S. or go back to the Philippines," he said. "She didn't think we could make it here in the U.S. without my dad."

His mother asked her two oldest sons for financial support. "We're going to need to help each other out if we're going to stay here," his mother said.

James' mother decided to move the family to Groton, Conn., for a new start. There, he finished his senior year of high school. After graduating in 2004, he immediately joined the Air Force.

He decided military service would be the best option to support his family and his goals in life, as well as bring honor to the Aguilar name.

"I enlisted and was on [the Delayed Entry Program] when I was 17 years old, so I needed my mom's signature and, at first, she wouldn't give it to me," he said. "I then explained to her how much I wanted to do this. Although there were so many uncertainties, I knew I could do it."

James entered Basic Military Training in November 2004 and became a trainee with the 326th Training Squadron Bulldogs. Being far from his family in a country still new to him, he recalled that he had no idea of what to expect from his new environment.

"The first week of basic was kind of depressing," he said. "But the thought of my family got me through the hard parts." He graduated BMT Dec. 31, 2004, and was bused to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., for Financial Management Technical Training joining the 335 TRS Bulls.

He graduated from technical school with honors and was assigned to Hanscom. Here he serves as a financial technician in the 66th Comptroller Squadron. Now an Airman 1st Class, he helps support his family in Connecticut by sending money each month.

"I love my mom and family very much and it's time for me to do something for them," Airman Aguilar said. He said his service in the Air Force has made a positive impression on his family.

"My family and relatives are very proud of me -- especially my little brother who is 13 and wishes to serve in the military when the time comes," he said. "I'm glad that I've set a good example for him."

Airman Aguilar's family is not the only source of recognition he has received for his dedication to the service.

He has earned Airman of the Quarter from the 66 CPTS, 66th Air Base Wing, Electronic Systems Center and Air Force Materiel Command.

"Airman Aguilar is such an asset to our office. No matter what we give him, he always takes things in stride," said Tech. Sgt. Rosalinda Ramirez-Megery, Airman Aguilar's supervisor.

Airman Aguilar looks to the future with high hopes.

"I plan to stay with the Air Force and make this a career -- probably cross over to become an officer," he said. "I've enjoyed my experiences and I've learned a lot during the short period I've been in the service.

"Most of my peers don't have the opportunity to do what I do -- serve this great country," he said. "I am proud to be serving in the United States Air Force and I wouldn't go back or change anything."