News: From life in India to the U.S. military, one 101st Abn. Div. Soldier is 'Seeing the world'
Story by Staff Sgt. James Hunter
By Sgt. James Hunter
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – Nearly 200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving in Iraq received their U.S. citizenship during a naturalization ceremony at the Al Faw Palace, April 12.
One particular citizen, Spc. Vivek Mishra, a chemical operations specialist, born and raised in central India, grew up in a rather different lifestyle than most would think. His father was a doctor, serving at the head of India's department of pharmacy. He grew up rather wealthy, with no stories of famine or war that brought him to the United States of America. Rather, it was his studies.
Mishra serves with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.
Mishra, who carries a heavy Indian accent, grew up in a large household, which would house anywhere from 25 – 40 family members at one time. There was a lot of respect among the household, he said, which strived on family and religious values. One could not even do as much as smoke in front of his parents, for it was a sign of disrespect.
Often, Mishra spent time with his friends at clubs or dining out at restaurants, which sat on the side of the highway near bodies of water.
When it was time for Mishra to go to college, he knew exactly the field he wanted to join. He felt he was not good at math nor did he like art.
"At that time when I was in India, they considered it a very big thing to be a doctor," Mishra said, "but my dad never forced me to do anything. He said whatever I wanted to choose to do, do it."
He wanted to be a chemist.
After three years at the Government Science College, Mishra earned his bachelor's degree. Then, less than three years later, he earned his master's degree in Chemistry at the Rani Durgeivati University in Jabalpur, India.
What was it about chemistry that Mishra enjoyed?
"Reactions!" he said. "In chemistry, I love reactions. You cannot see it how it changes into another substance. When you mix two substances, it will have a reaction. I love being able to understand those things."
After earning his master's degree, Mishra joined the PhD program. During his studies, he said his professor asked if he was interested in getting another master's degree at a school in the United States.
He thought it would be a good choice but wanted his parent's opinion on the matter first. His father told him if he stayed in India, he would just know his surroundings; however, he would not know the real world.
Mishra arrived in the United States in 2002 and enrolled at Illinois State University to work toward another master's degree in chemistry. He was nearly complete with his degree, he said, with one semester left and 80 percent of his thesis done, when he decided he needed to take a break from school for a while.
He was recently married, and said he didn't make much money working as a graduate assistant at the university. He had to put college aside to provide for him and his wife.
He worked a numerous jobs, but never really found his true calling. He said he wanted to work in a lab as a chemist, mixing different substances.
"At that time I said, 'Well, I do not have this much patience to continue to look for a job,'" he recalled.
After seeing an article on recruitment, he decided the next best thing for him would be the military.
But what did his parents think? Well, chuckled Mishra, he didn't tell his parents until he graduated from Advanced Individual Training – where he became a chemical operations specialist.
"They were in shock," he said.
His mother didn't want him to join the military; however, they understood he wanted to make a difference. His mother thought that no matter where he was as a Soldier, he explained, she worried that a bullet would find him. Thankfully, that has not been the case.
Mishra said being in the military is his true calling.
"I will be in the Army for about 20 to 25 years, as long as my body permits it," he said. "Its like a big family. It's a big mental support. I have made a lot of changes within myself."
When growing up, he said he wasn't given orders but simply given the choice if he wanted to do something or not.
"I have learned responsibility and order," he explained.
With already knowing he wants to be a career Soldier, his next goal in his career is to become an officer in the chemical field.
"War is completely changing, but chemicals are still an issue," Mishra said. "The chemical corps is growing, and they need really good Soldiers to understand all these things."
He said he wants to maximize his abilities with chemicals in relation to the military. In the meantime, however, he will first soak in his new status as an American citizen.
"It's completely different now to be an American citizen – it's a good feeling," Mishra said. "Now I am on the same track as everyone. I don't think anyone treated me differently because I wasn't a citizen, but it's a mental thing."
Becoming an American citizen is an honor he is well deserving of, said Capt. Robert Woodruff, his commander.
"Specialist Mishra exemplifies all that is good in an American Soldier, even before he officially became a U.S. citizen," said Woodruff. "He's been through a roller coaster ride for the two years to get to this culminating point in his life. He is technically and tactically proficient in his skills as the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear expert in the company, routinely filling the shoes of a non-commissioned officer on a daily basis.
"He definitely deserves this"
This work, From life in India to the U.S. military, one 101st Abn. Div. Soldier is 'Seeing the world', by SSG James Hunter, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.