JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., November 18, 2015 —
Growing up in rural Tarlac province in
the Philippines, Air Force Reserve Senior Airman Anne Venice Jalos, a finance
manager with the 446th Airlift Wing here, never envisioned that at age 19 she
would be serving the U.S. military as a naturalized citizen.
"Being raised in the Philippines was
very traditional; we depended on our parents a lot. Women weren't encouraged to
succeed; it sometimes felt like I was being drug down," Jalos said.
After her mother moved the family to the
United States, Jalos felt emboldened with a new sense of hope for her future.
"Here, I knew I could be truly
free," she said.
Soon after graduating high school and
still relatively new to the English language, Jalos made the boldest decision
of her life -- enlisting into the Air Force.
"At first, I had no idea what to
expect. I didn't know that gaining my citizenship was even an option, but I
knew that I wanted to serve," she said.
Luckily for Jalos, her recruiter, Air
Force Tech. Sgt. Erin Bush, 446th Airlift Wing Development and Training Flight
program manager, was well-versed on the military guidance on naturalization.
"This program offers all legal
resident aliens the opportunity to earn naturalization as U.S. citizens through
basic military training. Once I really understood the potential of this
program, I knew I had to educate myself on it so I could offer this
opportunity," Bush said.
Armed with a new resolve, four weeks of
citizenship testing and the successful completion of basic training soon
culminated in what would be one of the most meaningful moments in Jalos' life.
"When I was presented with my airman's
coin at graduation and I knew I was officially a citizen, I was
overwhelmed," Jalos said.
"Saying 'I am an American airman'
finally had so much meaning to me because I knew that I really was an American,"
Full of patriotism and purpose, Jalos
exhibits the kinds of qualities that many airmen hope to possess.
"Being in the military has changed
my life,” Jalos said. “I know I can become who I want to be."