USAF: One Airman's American Dream

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anabel Del Valle
  • 325th Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.— The U.S. Air Force is often called a “melting pot” by its members because individuals from different walks of life come together to serve side by side and provide different outlooks on accomplishing the mission. Some would say it’s one of our greatest strengths.

Allowing service members a safe space to share their cultural experiences, Tyndall’s Hispanic Heritage Association encourages the Air Force action orders of “Accelerate Change or Lose” by empowering Airmen and building a team of leaders who value diversity. One Airman who feels passionately about appreciating each Airman’s perspective is Staff Sgt. Ramon Garcia Flores, 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron cybersecurity liaison and an active Hispanic Heritage Association member. He also serves as the president of the LRS Diversity Council.

Garcia Flores gained first-hand experience with adapting to difficult cultural situations throughout his childhood. His parents left El Salvador shortly after his birth, fleeing a civil war that was devastating the country.

“My old home was a hot zone during the war,” recalled Garcia Flores. “I never had any resentment towards my parents for leaving. I would see the news coverage of people crossing the desert and dying along the way. I know that it could’ve been me had anything been done differently.”

He lived with his grandmother until the age of 12 before he made the trip from El Salvador to Los Angeles in hopes of beginning a new chapter alongside his parents. From there, he had the difficult task of conforming to the American way of life. As he navigated comprehending a new language, culture and home environment, he gained the unique experience of being an immigrant in the United States. 

“I went to an all-white school so I had no choice but to learn English,” explained Garcia Flores. “If I needed help, I had no choice but to figure out how to say it. I remember being shocked the United States wasn’t like all of the 90s sit-coms, where everyone was equal and had nice things. It wasn’t like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air after all.”

As he settled into his new life, he realized along the way that his dream was to serve in the military. However, in an effort to please his parents he decided to peruse a degree in biotechnology. Garcia Flores says being an immigrant sometimes means bearing the weight of other generations as there can be a tremendous amount of pressure to fulfill their dreams instead of one’s own.

“When you are an immigrant, there is an expectation of you not only from the world but from your family,” said Garcia Flores. “In the end, I didn’t finish my degree because I couldn’t adapt. I went into college to make my parents happy, but I never felt at home until I joined the Air Force in 2012.”

As a cyber security liaison, Garcia Flores serves as the lifeline for the 325th LRS, who is tasked with everything from maintaining vehicles to fueling aircraft. Whenever there are technology issues in the squadron, he is the first to troubleshoot the issue and ensure the mission continues. Although he takes great pride in knowing he plays a critical role in supplying air power, he is most passionate about caring for his brothers and sisters in arms.

“From a human aspect, I do have a very different perspective that I can bring to the junior Airmen,” said Garcia Flores. “Knowing I can bridge that cultural gap in any capacity is rewarding. The American dream is a beautiful idea, but the reality is it is a hard dream to make come true. It comes with great sacrifice and I can relate.”