Tag Archives: strength

Through Airmen’s Eyes: Cadet candidate overcomes adversity, October 12, 2012

 

Cadet Candidate William Roe

By Amber Baillie
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

(This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Home has never been where 18-year old William Roe’s heart is.

A cadet candidate at the Academy’s Preparatory School, Roe hopes to one day be an officer in the Air Force and has found his key strength through his education to get where he is today: from being hungry and living out of his mother’s car at age six to being a step away from attending one of the most prestigious institutions in the nation, the Air Force Academy.

Originally from Robinson, Texas, Roe grew up in a low-income household amid continual drug abuse and hardship.

“Over the course of my life, my family hadn’t done a whole lot to contribute to society in a positive way,” Roe said. “My dad went to prison, my mom tried to overdose a handful of times, and my brothers got in a lot of trouble.”

When Roe was just an infant, his father manufactured methamphetamine in their home. The house was eventually raided, and his father was sent to jail, leaving Roe, his mother and siblings on their own.

“My mom had a really hard time supporting us,” Roe said. “I can remember times when she would put us in the car and tell us we were going somewhere, drive until we fell asleep and then we’d wake up in the car the next morning. I guess she just didn’t have the heart to tell us that we didn’t have anywhere to go.”

At age 12, Roe began work for a local landscaping company to help pay the family’s bills and set aside money for when he wanted to purchase things such as school pictures, yearbooks or field trips.

“I’m not going to say it was an enjoyable experience, but now that I’m older and not doing it anymore I’m pretty proud of it,” Roe said. “If I hadn’t gone through some of things I went through as a kid, I don’t think I would have the level of maturity and mental toughness that I have today.”

Roe said he doesn’t remember a time when his family wasn’t on food stamps, welfare or unemployment. He said there were several occasions where he and his brothers were separated from their mother and sent to live with distant relatives because they didn’t have a place to sleep.

By age 15, Roe decided to no longer live at home, often times sleeping in the locker room at his high school, staying with friends or sleeping in the car he purchased after working a full-time job for eight months.

“A lot of people when they think homeless, they think of standing on the street corner with a cardboard sign, and that wasn’t the situation at all,” Roe said. “I was always welcome to come home, but it wasn’t an environment where I could focus on my studies and not get into trouble.”

Roe’s brothers had all dropped out of school and became addicted to drugs.

“I saw my brothers get in trouble with drugs, dealing and fighting,” Roe said. “I love my brothers, but as I got older, I realized that I wanted to be better and didn’t want to follow in their footsteps.”

Roe said he didn’t always eat, especially the nights he slept in the locker room. He would skip dinner and wait until the next morning for his free breakfast at school.

“Kids would anonymously leave me food. I never felt bad accepting it because it’s nice to know whether you talk about your life or not, people are willing to look after you,” Roe said.

At age 16, Roe lived with his grandmother for a short period of time and faced further hardship when she was instantly killed in a car accident he witnessed on his way to her house.

“After the accident, I happened to be driving on the highway and recognized her truck,” Roe said. “Being the one who lived with her and being close to the accident, I had to inform everyone what had happened. It’s hard when you have to tell your mother that her mother had passed away over something so spontaneous.”

Despite not always having a home, food or family members who cared about him, Roe said he always looked toward the future and found motivation and support through individuals and activities at school.

“School was the one place I was really comfortable,” Roe said. “I had a great network of friends. I couldn’t imagine being in this position if I hadn’t gone to Robinson High School. The staff members went above and beyond to make sure I was successful and a lot of them gave me a place to stay.”

Roe was the vice president of his senior class, a leader in National Honor Society, and homecoming king. He volunteered regularly to help tutor kids.

“I made an effort to become best friends with the people that I wanted to model my life after,” Roe said. “I’ve aimed high in everything that I do so that one day, when I have my own family, I can provide for them and my kids will never have to go through the same things I went through.”

Roe also participated in sports: football, power-lifting, cross-country, track and soccer.

“I actually got recognized for doing the most sports in high school,” Roe said. “It was constructive, a huge stress reliever and helped me get my mind off my family.”

Upon high school graduation, Roe received a full-ride scholarship from Texas A&M as well as a $20,000 scholarship from the Horatio Alger Scholar Foundation. Through the foundation, Roe took a trip to Washington, D.C., and met influential figures such as Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas and actor Rob Lowe.

“I was one of 104 selected from 50,000 applicants,” Roe said. “I met these incredible people and we had a formal induction ceremony inside the Supreme Court building. When the scholars walked down the aisle among all of these successful people who came from similar backgrounds as us and were successful, had respect for us and shook our hands when we walked passed them, that was the most incredible moment of my entire life. So far nothing has compared to that.”

Roe said he applied to the Academy because he appreciates the structure of the military and thinks he could use his leadership potential if he became a second lieutenant.

“The more I looked into it, the more I wanted to be a part of the Air Force,” Roe said. “I’m attracted to the wingman concept and appreciate that everyone is held to a higher standard and responsible for their actions. If they act out, they’ll be punished for it. I love that aspect.”

Although Roe wasn’t accepted into the Academy, he said he chose to spend a year at the Prep School because he knew he would receive solid preparation to lead men and women if he were to become an officer.

“There were thousands of people who competed just for a spot in the Prep School and only 240 people got in,” Roe said. “I wasn’t a recruit, my ACT scores weren’t very high but I got here on my ability to overcome adversity. I now have my own bed, get to shower every night and I don’t have to worry about my clothes not looking as nice as everyone else’s because we’re all in uniform. Every day I wake up and think about how awesome this opportunity is and I’m extremely grateful to be here.”

Roe came to Colorado Springs not knowing a single person until he stepped off the plane and was approached by a complete stranger at the airport.

“This woman approached me and started to ask me questions,” Roe said. “I didn’t want to tell her much because I didn’t know her but she proceeded to tell me that she was a sponsor for two cadets at the Academy.”

Roe said she offered him a place to stay for the night but he initially declined. He said it wasn’t until she mentioned what she was cooking for dinner that evening that made him change his mind.

“I was extremely hungry and I honestly knew I probably wouldn’t be able to eat that night because I didn’t have enough money,” Roe said. “I went home with her and the steak fajitas turned out to be terrific.”

It was then when Roe found his sponsor family: Col. Rob Widmann, retired Lt. Col. Ida Widmann and their two sons, Robert and Alex.

“Not only was I able to eat that night but I was blessed enough to have met her and now I have people who are willing to look out for me,” Roe said.

Roe plays on the Prep School’s soccer team and said as much as he would love to play for the Academy someday, only time will tell.

“I wanted to play soccer my whole life and can recall being seven, eight and nine years old asking if I could join the team and my parents would never let me,” Roe said. “That’s why I only played in high school. I would definitely like to join the track team at the Academy and would probably participate in long jump, high jump or triple jump.”

Roe said it will be the hardest yet most fantastic decision of his life when he is forced to choose whether to pursue the Academy or attend Texas A&M at the end of the year.

Photo: Cadet Candidate William Roe said he is determined to make it work at the Academy. “I’ve been given this great opportunity,” the Air Force Academy Preparatory School student said Oct. 3, 2012. “If I mess up, I have nothing.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Carol Lawrence)

Diversity makes a stronger Air Force, Sept. 7, 2012

Diversity strengthens military

By Col. Rodney Bryan
927th Mission Support Group commander

The Air Force defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences, and abilities, consistent with the core values and mission. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, personal experiences, geographic background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical or spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender.

One of the strengths of our nation and the Air Force is this diversity, which includes and involves all of us. In Executive Order 13583, President Obama stated, “Our nation derives strength from the diversity of its population and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all. We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.”

As commander of a mission support group, I fully appreciate the importance of diversity. The nature of the various activities and operations directed and controlled by mission support groups worldwide make them the most diverse group within Air Force wings. Functions typically include personnel, logistics planning and readiness, civil engineering, security forces, communications and services. These disciplines are brought together under the mission support group to provide complete and responsive support to installations and the Air Force mission.

Diversity is vital to the successful accomplishment of the Air Force mission. The Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley stated, “Across the service, we represent a broad range of diverse missions, family situations, ethnicities, faiths, races and educational backgrounds. Yet together, this rich tapestry forms the world’s finest Air Force, drawn from the best talent that America has to offer.”

The Air Force must attract, recruit, develop, mentor, and retain the best possible talent to stay effective. Embracing each Airman’s strengths, perspective, and capabilities will help build and sustain a diverse culture that strengthens our service. To gain the most from diversity, Airmen must understand they are valued and have the opportunity to reach their full potential while contributing to the Air Force mission.

Air Force capabilities and war-fighting skills are enhanced by diversity among its personnel. Diversity provides the total force a collection of strengths, perspectives and capabilities that transcend individual contributions. Personnel who work in diverse environments learn to make the most of and combine individual strengths, abilities and perspectives for the good of the mission.

Lastly, diversity is a leadership issue. We who are leaders must be committed to building an Air Force reflects the best of our nation. In addition, we must create an environment that promotes mutual respect and trust while promoting the development and mentorship of Airmen with different backgrounds and perspectives. The message must be effectively communicated that diversity is integral to Air Force core values and enhances mission readiness.

Photo: The strength of the military is improved by the diverse backgrounds of those who make up the organization, a senior National Guard officer said May 3, 2010.

Strength, courage on the home front

By Staff Sgt. Nicholas BreamSgt Bream and the 387th ELRS
96th Logistics Readiness Squadron

I was afforded the opportunity to share a heartfelt story of my experience while I was deployed on convoy duty in Iraq. The Learning Channel (TLC) came to my house before I arrived home and recorded the strength and courage that it takes my wife Nicole and three children, Amanda, Joseph, and Jessi to carry on everyday life while I am deployed.

The Learning Channel wanted service members who were deployed and had a special family event they wanted to share. In my case, when I was deployed in 2008 on convoy duty, Nicole gave birth to my son Joseph in Germany with only her friends by her side as I was on mission and could not be there with her. It was almost six months before I got home and the only way Joseph knew me was through a webcam and the sound of my voice. But as soon as he saw me he knew exactly who I was. And then in March of 2011 she gave birth to my daughter Jessi while I was not due back for another six weeks. I sat back and thought to myself “Wow.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to do that by herself and still take care of our other children and attend college full time.

Amanda and Nicole enjoyed watching shows about military members reuniting with family members after a deployment. One evening Amanda asked me via webcam if “Mommy and Daddy could surprise her like that when I came home.” I was excited to be able to surprise her like she wanted and to be able to share it with other people. After a few months of going back and forth with ideas we finally decided that we would make the show about my daughter getting her Girl Scout “Strength and Courage” badge awarded. Amanda helped out Nicole in every way that a 6 year old could. Amanda stepped up to take my place helping around the house, picking up the living room and folding laundry.

From that point on I handed the planning over to Nicole and the Girl Scout leader Elizabeth to work with the production crew. They set it up to be recorded at my home in Florida during a Girl Scout meeting. They invited a local fire fighter to talk about how much strength and courage it takes to do his job. After talking about that for a few minutes he then moved to introduce me, saying how it took more strength and courage to do my job overseas in hostile environments.

They all worked it perfectly so that when I got home from the airport all I had to do was walk in the door and surprise Amanda and her Girl Scout troop. She had no idea I was coming home yet and she was in total shock that her dad was the one to award her this achievement. After I surprised Amanda, Nicole had a surprise for me — getting to see my daughter Jessi for the first time in person since she was born. Up until then I had only seen her via webcam and pictures Nicole sent me. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to finally hold her.

I have deployed two times, and both times they have been for more than six months. Every military member, myself included, has to be ready at a moment’s notice to pick up and go somewhere else for duty. Whether it is for one day or 12 months we are not the ones who have it hard. It’s the family and loved ones we leave behind who are expected to carry on daily life without us.

Photo: Airmen with the 387th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance flight deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation New Dawn from September 2010 to April 2011.