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    Soldier in focus: Achieving the American dream

    2-5 Cav Conducts Small Arms Fire Training Exercise

    Photo By Spc. Hannah Tarkelly | Army Pfc. Shuang Li, assigned to Bravo Company, 2-5 Cav, 1st Armored Brigade Combat...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Hannah Tarkelly 

    382nd Public Affairs Detachment

    With each step,their boots struck the ground creating a distinct thunderous sound as their unified voices converged under a single blusterous cadence. Each U.S. Soldier within the formation marched with intentional precision as if their minds shared the same bodily commands.

    At first glance these camouflaged warriors could easily be categorized as a single entity only identified by the uniform they wore. However, behind those piercing eyes of intensity resides a past formulated from a plethora of unique events that has allowed for experience, growth and development in character.

    Among the sea of green was one particular Soldier whose story of courage, bravery and strength began long before he put on the uniform.

    U.S. Army Spc. Shuang Li is an infantryman assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division deployed in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, an enduring exercise to improve the interoperability between U.S. forces, their NATO allies and partners.

    His story of resiliency and mental fortitude has created waves of inspiration within his formation. This is the story of how one young boy from foreign lands achieved the American dream and became one of the United States’ most deadly warriors.

    In 1996 Li was a 12-year-old boy living on the farmlands of South China with his family. He was surviving on as little as two meals a day with uncertainty of when the next meal would appear. The young boy made a decision it was time to take his future into his own hands. With no money in his pockets he set off on a life-altering journey in which he would risk everything to chase a dream most would call impossible.

    “I come from a poor family,” Li said. “I wanted to have a better life because when I was in my country I was starving.”

    Li began working at a young age to help support himself and his family but he knew if he wanted more to life than just two meals a day he would have to leave the life he knew behind. His first step towards a new life was crucial so he followed his grandfather’s advice to go north where jobs provided good money.

    “My grandpa told me, ‘Everyday when you get up, you just follow the sun and keep going,’” Li said.

    From that day forward, Li continued to work while his grandfather's words of wisdom lingered in the back of his mind.

    Once Li had made enough money to afford a train ticket, he packed his bags and aimed for the sun.

    Li followed the sun to Shanghai before making his way to Beijing where a coworker had suggested South Korea was a great place to live.

    “In China even though you’re working very hard some jobs they just pay you food,” Li said.

    Not satisfied with his career progression and state of income, Li once again worked diligently until he made enough money to get to the next best place; South Korea.

    When Li was 13, he was in South Korea working two to three jobs a day when he overheard a conversation that would change his life.

    “I heard people say that the best country in the world is the United States,” Li said. “They say there is freedom and opportunity… and that’s where I needed to go. So I ask how do I get there?”

    After spending over a year of wandering from country to country and job to job searching for success, Li found his final destination.

    From that day forward Li was determined to get to the land of the free with nothing but hope in his pockets and an American dream.

    “Over the next few years, I lived in three other countries (North Korea, Thailand and Mexico) saving money to get one country closer to the U.S.,” Li said.

    After years of struggling, perseverance and with great resilience Li finally made it to the U.S. at the age of 15 alone.

    Homeless and unemployed, he began his new chapter in New Mexico with less than a hundred dollars in his pocket.

    “When I first get into this country I have nothing,” Li said.

    Despite his circumstances, this was not the first time Li had encountered an unfamiliar culture and language with little guidance. So far Li had already traveled through five countries and learned seven languages so his determination wasn’t faltered.

    Li traveled across the country to New York City where he attended and graduated high school within three years while working a full time job.

    During the day Li was studying hard but by night he was working to survive.

    With only six to seven years of prior schooling and learning a new language, Li had to work harder than the average student to keep up. Luckily his bilingual teacher was able to guide him through school. While living in Chinatown he also found a way to speak his native language while slowly progressing in the U.S. language and culture.

    After years of continuous hard work, Li had achieved what was once just a dream. At the age of 30, his home and his heart finally belonged in Queens, New York with his wife and two daughters. As a successful businessman and restaurant owner, he was able to support his family at home and back in South China.

    “We opened successful restaurants and we were living the American Dream with our two daughters,” Li said.

    Li looked for a way he could give back to a country that gave him everything. He decided it was time to put his life on the line for a country that offered him a life he could have only dreamt of.

    “This country gave me everything,” Li said. “I needed to do something for this country. So in that moment I decided to join the Army.”

    Li sold his restaurant and prepared his family for his departure and new journey.

    Like all Soldiers, Li’s military career began in basic training where he put his physical and mental capabilities to the ultimate test.

    Li had a tough mentality due to a past full of overcoming obstacles to survive. However, his English and physical strength were a struggle Li would have to overcome if he wanted to serve his country.

    “My drill sergeant say ‘Your English is very bad’ and ‘If you cannot do a PT (physical fitness) test I’m going to kick you out,’” Li said.

    Li was determined to pass his PT test and better his English.

    “If I want to do something good for this country first of all I need to become a good Soldier,” Li said. “So after that day I pushed myself very very hard.”

    While his fellow battle buddies were sleeping during the hours of 1900 to 2000, Li was physically training to become a stronger and more lethal Soldier. His dedication to excel allowed him to graduate with his peers in 2017.

    “In that period I felt very proud of myself,” Li said.

    Now at the age of 32 and an infantryman of the 2-5 CAV, he has maintained his physical readiness with a 297 out of 300 PT score.

    Li conducts approximately six to seven hours of training per day including physical fitness, ruck marches and battle drills.

    “We have a lot of training,” Li said.

    When they are wearing their whole kit including a 60 to 70 lb ruck sack while carrying a weapon up a mountain for a couple of hours they need to make sure they are strong enough to withstand the weight, Li said.

    Each day Li also continues to broaden his military and civilian knowledge whether that’s becoming more lethal on the M249B machine gun or learning 30 English words a day.

    His work ethic, mentality and dedication is not just a product of the Army but the background in from which he derived. His experience has lead him to become more lethal on the battlefield and successful in life.

    “The most important thing I’ve learned is the Army has different people from different area from different country,” Li said.

    Li is much more than the uniform he wears. He is the boy who survived, who overcame and thrived when the odds were against him.

    U.S. Army Spc. Shuang Li is the American Dream.



    Date Taken: 02.07.2019
    Date Posted: 02.08.2019 09:56
    Story ID: 309796
    Location: GRAFENWOEHR, DE 
    Hometown: FORT HOOD, TX, US
    Hometown: QUEENS, NY, US

    Web Views: 384
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    Soldier in focus: Achieving the American dream