Read Hector's story.
As a young boy growing up in Chile, I lived near a naval base; I saw aircrafts land and take off all day, every day. I remember all I wanted then was to grow up and be a part of that, be a naval aviator, soar up in the skies and serve my community. Several years later I saw the movie Top Gun at a classmate’s house, my head almost exploded!
As the adopted son of a retired Navy Warrant officer I thought about what it would be like to wear the uniform like my father did. Until then it was always just me and him, we were the world to each other and I so wanted to make him proud. I was so happy that I had his full support on this, I was six years old and in my head I thought to myself: I am going to be the best aviator I can be.
As fate would have it, my father passed away when I was half way through high school. I was left alone with no place to go, no direction in life and no moral support. As with many kids in troubled times virtually homeless and with no adult supervision, my grades began to slip, I knew there was no way for me to get accepted to the Naval Academy with my current situation, so I decided that the best course of action would be to enlist and find my way into an airplane once I was in the service, after all my basic needs would be covered, which was at that point my first priority.
I applied to the Navy and passed all exams, I was relieved that my misery was about to be over. I went to the second phase and once again I passed all tests…except for the color vision test. I found out my color vision was deficient, and I was rejected on the spot.
Needless to say, I was destroyed and my heart was broken. I didn’t want to hurt anymore, my father was dead, my best friend had moved away to a different country and the thing that was my last refuge and way out of my miserable life was gone as well.
I remember my father always telling me over and over that I needed to strive to be someone in life no matter the current circumstances. With that in mind, I committed to myself to finish high school and attend college; to raise my chances to be able make myself a better life. I realized that I had to stop letting life happen to me and that I had to happen to life instead. I didn’t know how to do it exactly but I was going to try. In the end, I just wanted a place to call home that no one could kick me out from.
Through my teen years I made a living in a number of different jobs, but mainly working in restaurants as a dishwasher and later as a cook so I settled on going to college for Hospitality Management. It was during my third year of college that I decided to move to the United States and try my luck here. Once again, I faced adversity as a new immigrant, but I didn’t give up.
I know what it means to need help, to hurt, to be rejected and to be virtually alone; however, I also know what it is like to dare to have dreams in spite of not being able to afford to have them.
Three years ago at the Karate school my daughter and I go to, I met one of the instructors who was also was a U.S. Coast Guard Flotilla Commander, and she told me about the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviation (AUXAIR), which is the uniformed volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard, I learned that there is no color vision test required as a volunteer. I signed up and I am now happy to be a Flotilla Staff Officer, an Interpreter, and I fly patrol missions as an air observer on my free time. I didn’t give up, and now I can help my country and my brothers and sisters of the United States Coast Guard Active Duty and Auxiliary… by flying!
My driving force is that I want to be part of the solution, and I am most aware that I cannot be of help to anyone if I don’t put myself in a position to be able to do so.
I see way too many people who don’t have place to call home. Aimless, they wander through life suffering. I believe that once they have that basic need checked off, their chances of fixing other aspects of their life will rise.
It took many years for me to be able to go back to college, but when I found my way, I decided to go for my other passion, which is architecture. For five years I have been going to school part time at night after work. In the near future I would like to be able to help the helpless and abandoned and to be part of their solution.
I’m still a few years away from graduating Architecture School… but, as you already know: I don’t give up.