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Airman transforms hardships into motivation

By Lori A. Bultman | 25th Air Force Public Affairs | March 16, 2018

JIONT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — As a young and homeless man, Brian experienced hardships no teen should ever endure, but through hard work and determination, the future Airman discovered he was capable of doing much more than he thought he could.

It all started when the teen’s mom began having medical heart issues. She would go in an ambulance and be gone for weeks, he said. The rent wouldn’t get paid and he would be evicted from their home.

“I would stay with a friend or on the street. I was moving from house to house, in my car, in a friend’s attic,” he said. “I didn’t have money to take care of myself or my mom.”

It was a hard life for such a young man, but Brian remembers his mother often saying, “The same water that softens the potato hardens the egg.”

“We are not victims of our circumstance, we are shapers of it,” he said. “I could have found someone to blame for the things that happened to me, but no one can change what is going on in your life but you. I had to earn, and own, what was mine and what was given to me. I could have continued on that path or fight and change and go a different direction.”

Brian said his mom motivated him by asking him one, simple question, “What’s next?”

“She made me have a goal every step of my life,” he said. “From being a protector, to being a straight A student, to making the football team, she would always ask, ‘What’s next?’”

Brian had another mentor and motivator in high school, his first sergeant in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

“I started running when I was in JROTC, and 1st Sgt. Torres ran with us. He was probably in his 40s and he could out run all of us high school kids,” Brian said. “I thought, if the first sergeant could do it, I could do it.”

After graduating from high school, Brian worked in construction for a while, but it was a rough job that didn’t pay inexperienced workers very well.

“I didn’t have certifications in anything, and I wasn’t making enough to support myself and my mom,” he said.

That was when Brian decided to leverage his four years of JROTC experience to better himself and his situation.

“The JROTC groomed me to be ready for the military,” he said.

He joined the U.S. Air Force in 2007 and became an intelligence analyst. Brian, who is now a technical sergeant, intends to stay in the military until he retires, but his current goal is to become a first sergeant.

“First sergeant is the job I was meant to do in the Air Force. I could help all the time and really make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “I want to be my Airman’s protector, their advocate, their light.”

Brian said his personality makes him very approachable, one of the qualities of a good first sergeant.

“I am extroverted, and I think my social cues let Airmen know I care,” he said. “As a supervisor, I sweat the small stuff. I get engaged with Airmen and try to know the details of their lives so I can understand them better.”

It was his understanding of his Airmen that led him recently to start a new program.

“Marriages, divorces, buying a house; people need help for those moves the Air Force doesn’t pay for. Those short moves that happen during an assignment,” Brian said. “So, I started the Air Force Moving Assistance Program.”

Through the program, volunteers assist Airmen who need help loading and unloading their belongings during a local move.

Working hard to help others is something Brian believes in, and is thankful he can provide.

“I found out how much hard work could pay off,” he said. “Hard work will never be replaced by computers and robots. If we didn’t have hard workers we wouldn’t have all the innovations we have today.”

Through it all, this proud and motivated Airman credits his mom with making him into the compassionate person he is today.

“My mom is a wonderful woman. She raised me in sickness and in health, worked seven days a week, and worked from home when she couldn’t afford childcare,” he said. “My mom focused my drive and kept me determined, and hopefully, through what I am today and what I am doing for my country, my debt can be repaid to her.”