INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
“We are not rich in
the Philippines,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Paolo Alix, 39th Logistics Readiness
Squadron material management journeyman. “We don’t eat three times a day,
probably twice at the most, or once.”
Alix, who was born and raised in the Philippines for 19
years, often felt that when opportunities for a better life would present themselves,
something was hindering and holding him back.
“It was either we don’t have money to do it, or my
confidence,” said Alix. “I kind of didn’t know myself at that time.”
Before Alix was born, his aunt, a U.S. citizen, submitted a
petition requesting an immigrant visa for Alix’s mother to move from the
Philippines to the United States of America. Petitions often take a lot of
time, effort and money before they are approved, it wasn't until more than 20
years later that their dream would finally come true.
When the papers were finally approved by the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services, all of Alix’s siblings had moved out of
the house and had families of their own. Luckily for Alix, he was 19 years old
and single, which provided him the perfect opportunity to accompany his mother.
“My mom (said), ‘I'll do anything just for my son to get
there,’” explained Alix. “I want to go too because I want to press on… I’m
happy with my life, but I know I cannot (live) like that forever.”
Alix and his mom were the only ones who made the initial
move to the states, as his aunt did not feel as though she would have the funds
for three members of her family to move to the United States at that time.
Before leaving, Alix told his father that he would come back
and get him. He just needed time to find a job.
While it was difficult for him and his mother to leave their
family behind in the Philippines, it was time for them to embark on their new
The United States
“It's overwhelming. As soon as I hit (Los Angeles
International Airport), it was totally different airport than the Philippines,”
said Alix. “People started speaking English and while I could understand it, I
could not fluently answer back.”
He was nervous as he processed through the airport,
especially as airport staff checked his passport and ensured he had his proper
paperwork. Little did he know that filling out the paper for selective service
would inadvertently change his life for the better.
“You sign this paper saying that if there is something
happening in the states that you are willing to serve the country,” said Alix. “So
l was like ‘yup, I will sign this,’ and it came to my mind that, ‘why not join
For Alix, his new surrounding and culture were surreal. As
he slowly got over the initial excitement and stress of moving to a different
country, he continued to consider the option of the military as he didn't know
how to start his new life.
As fate would have it, during a family party, Alix's uncle
encouraged him to speak with a member of the family who happened to be a U.S.
Air Force recruiter. After asking numerous questions regarding how he could go
to school for free and travel a lot, he would make a life-altering decision.
“Pretty much, I signed up right away. I didn't care what job
I got, I just wanted to go in,” said Alix.
After only spending five months in the U.S., he signed the
papers and left quickly for Basic Military Training in August 2011.
“When I got to BMT, I spoke English but not like
conversational. Every time they would ask me something it was like yes, no,
maybe, ya,” explained Alix. “It was already a culture shock being in America.
It is more of a culture shock being in the military, (but) that didn't stop me.”
Upon arriving to his first duty station at Davis-Monthan Air
Force Base, Arizona, Alix asked his mom to move with him. Alix and his mother
were accustomed to their way of life in the Philippines. They were very shy,
but they did try to be different. He told his mom since they were in America
now they needed to be outgoing to progress.
“When I was back in the Philippines, and even when I first
got to the states, I don't usually talk to people. But when I got to the
military, through the years that I have been in, I have learned that you are
your own person,” said Alix.
He learned a lot while in the military and wanted to teach
her those qualities, as well as guide her through the transition to America.
His mother gradually settled into her new life, got a job
and moved into her own place. Then, after roughly four years, Alix received the
paperwork and saved up enough money to move his dad to the United States. Just
as he did with his mom, Alix guided his dad through the trials of learning and
adapting to a new culture.
“’If you push yourself to learn their culture, then nothing
is impossible.’ That's pretty much what I told my parents,” said Alix regarding
moving to the United States. “Yes we have our own culture, but it doesn't mean
that you can't learn other cultures. I told them I pick good things about our
culture and I pick good things about America's culture and put them together,
and that is me as a person.”
As Alix left for his new assignment to lncirlik Air Base,
Turkey, his dad had adjusted well to his new life and hit his two-year
milestone of living in America.
When Alix arrived at lncirlik AB, he said that it was hard
at times being so far away from family, but at the same time it allowed him to
learn more about himself and others.
Alix knew that the military offered him many things, such as
school and traveling to other countries, but what he did not know was that he
would become part of a new family when he joined the Asian Pacific Heritage
Alix liked that APHA and the military allowed him to meet a
lot of people from different cultures and heritage.
“It kind of reminded me of home and it feels good because
it's not just Filipinos. There's Romanians, there's people from Thailand,
there's people from all different countries,” he said. “Every time we do a
meeting, on the third Saturday of the month, it's like there is always someone
sharing their background. Asian Pacific Heritage Association is not just a
heritage group for me, they are my family.”
Alix loves sharing his culture with the other APHA members,
as well as inspiring others through his story. He shares with others about
moving to the U.S., overcoming cultural challenges and how he didn't let the
hard times get him down or hold him back.
“Yes you have an accent, but that doesn't matter. That
doesn't need to stop you for being who you are and being out there and being
independent,” said Alix. “You don't need to be ashamed of yourself.”
As Alix reflected on how the military changed his life, he
said it gave him confidence and independence. His advice to others who are thinking
about moving to the U.S. from other countries, or joining the military is
simple: “What you want to do in your life, it's your decision. This opportunity
only comes once. If you want to grab it, grab it while it's not too late,” said