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    Eritrea to Nashville: A Refugee’s Journey to the Tennessee Air Guard

    Eritrea to Nashville: A Refugee’s Journey to the Tennessee Air Guard

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jordan Harwood | U.S. Air Force Senior Airman John Gebremariam, a services Airman with the 118th Force...... read more read more

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Senior Airman John Gebremariam, a services specialist with the 118th Force Support Squadron in Nashville, Tennessee, is living a life that he couldn’t imagine as a young man. Going to school to become an aviation mechanic, and serving in the Air National Guard.
    Born in Eritrea, he fled as a refugee to neighboring Ethiopia at a young age. Gebremariam and his family stayed in an overcrowded refugee camp for years. The constant struggle in the refugee camp to access even basic necessities was difficult. Just finding water during the dry season was a challenge.
    “We had plenty of water from the river and drilled wells during the rainy season,” said Gebremariam. “But during the summer we would have to get up at 3:00 a.m., grab our water bucket, and stand in line for several hours just for a little water. If the river had water we could go down there and take a shower, but sometimes it would dry up.”
    The difficulties didn’t end there. Gebremariam and his family were dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. Since they had little documentation, they were not allowed to work. If they needed something the humanitarian agencies couldn’t provide, they simply couldn’t get it.
    After four years in the camp an opportunity presented itself. A nongovernment organization presented Gebremariam and his family the option to move to the United States. They were all excited to leave the refugee camp and jumped at the opportunity. However, coming to the US was a big culture shock.
    Their US resettlement agency only provided six months of aid, meaning Gebremariam and his family had to quickly learn English, get jobs, and become self-sufficient. At sixteen years old Gebremariam now had to deal with the struggles of being a new immigrant.
    “It was difficult coming from Ethiopia and then to a high school in Las Vegas, Nevada,” said Gebremariam. “You know how kids can be. Sometimes they pick on you.”
    Gebremariam was able to overcome several challenges, graduate high school and begin attending college in Iowa. With dreams of becoming an aircraft mechanic, he looked into joining the Tennessee Air National Guard. The aviation mechanic school he wanted to attend was in Nashville. By joining the Tennessee ANG, it would give him the opportunity to serve his new country, and grant him a path to US citizenship, all while still attending school. It was the perfect fit for him.
    “My family was happy for me, and proud that I joined,” said Gebremariam. “America has given so much to me, I wanted to give back.”
    April 22, 2022 marked another big day in Gebremariam’s journey. He raised his right hand again, not to enlist, but to become an American citizen.
    “It’s a great feeling to be a citizen now. It was a really good day,” said Gebremariam.



    Date Taken: 06.23.2022
    Date Posted: 06.23.2022 17:07
    Story ID: 423643
    Location: NASHVILLE, TN, US 

    Web Views: 171
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