I always knew what I wanted to be in life. What I didn’t know was that I would have a chance to be everything I dreamed of as a child.
I came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Venezuela, and yes, I’m still learning the English language. But like most Americans, I am going to school and working a full-time job, but I feel like I have fought and worked harder than most to get where I wanted to be. I’ve experienced public discrimination and encountered some employers who would not consider me for a position because of my thick accent, even though I have a Master’s degree and also speak five languages.
I grew up watching the TV show JAG and that is what I wanted to be – a J.A.G. (a Judge Advocate General or a military officer who advises the government on courts-martial). That was my dream. Unfortunately, my wings got cut off before I could even continue to reach my dream. I received an incorrect military discharge order DD214 that I am still fighting to correct. I felt like I lost my way, like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt there was nothing else for me because my only dream of serving was gone.
One day, while sitting in the break room of the Department of Homeland Security, I saw Team Rubicon (TR) CEO Jake Wood giving an interview on CNN about the incredible work other veterans were doing in their local communities since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and I saw a new door and maybe a new dream for me. I went home, logged onto my computer, and signed up to be a volunteer member for TR but to my eagerness, I could not participate. Nothing was going on in Omaha.
A year after of signing up for TR, I had a beautiful baby girl who is everything to me but still, the emptiness was there. I always felt that if I cannot serve my country, then I will help others who stand up to serve as well. That is why I am so involved in the veteran community. Here I was, working full time, an active member of Team RWB, a CrossFit competitor, working on my Master’s and now raising a child on my own in a state where I knew no one.
In July 2016, I received an email from one of the TR membership team leads in Region VII asking for volunteers to step up to a leadership position. I thought to myself, “This is my chance!” I know very little about this organization but why not? I came to this country and learned its language, started adjusting to a new life and even raised my hand and promised to protect this country, so I got this.
Volunteer leader Amanda Stricker gave me my first shot and now here I am. Doing the best I can to live up to the TR standard and to give it all I can for the people that volunteer with us and for those who lost it all from a natural disaster. I know what it’s like losing a dream. I know what it’s like to start over, and that’s why I work hard to make my city strong.
I feel I have a purpose again, just like I did when I was in the military; I have a family away from my original family. Everywhere I go I feel like I’m at home, there is always a Greyshirt volunteer waiting to hug another. That it is why I joined Team Rubicon, to find my purpose, my drive, and my home away from home. Now I have a big, kick-ass family full of veterans as well as some amazing civilians who give it their all and then some.
God knows how proud I am and what an honor it is for me is to put my name on that grey shirt even though it does not fit!