TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – I grew up in China as an only child. Six years ago, I moved to the United States because my mother wanted me to get the best education. I promised myself that while I pursued my education, I would make a difference worthy of crossing the Pacific Ocean.
During orientation at my new high school, the football coach asked me if I wanted to play football. I thought, “Sure, why not try something new?” I also decided to play football to learn about American culture.
I played guard on offense and defense and I trained all summer with my teammates to prepare for our school’s first varsity season. As the school’s first foreign player, I was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced at the pep rally. My teammates cheered for me and I felt so welcomed.
However, this joy wouldn’t last long. During our first game, I twisted my meniscus while trying to make a tackle. I couldn’t move my left leg and I thought, “This could be the last time I ever play football.”
A week later, my coach told me the team needed me back. He said all my teammates were praying for me and they needed me to help “hold the line.” During our first game, our team scored two touchdowns and on those plays, I blocked the defensive players and prevented them from making a tackle.
As I thought about what my coach said, I began to realize the bond I shared with my teammates. We were a team working together to achieve a common goal. I looked upon each of my teammates as brothers and committed myself to doing all I could to protect them. Three weeks after my injury, the doctor cleared me to play with a metal knee brace and my teammates welcomed me back with hugs and applause.
After losing three games in a row, we had to win our next game and faced a team much bigger than us. I was determined to “hold the line” and help our team to victory. We won the game 49 to 6 and made the playoffs.
The bond between my teammates and I helped me feel accepted by the American people. I am the first generation in my family to live in the United States and I am the first American citizen from my family. The first generation of Americans fought to build this country more than 240 years ago despite their differences. The bond they forged will never be broken. Football taught me the importance of a lineman “holding the line,” and what it means to serve others. I am willing to do so much more and serve many more people.
I chose to join the U.S. Air Force to foster the bond between my nation and the American people, but I was also attracted by one sentence in the Airman’s Creed: “I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor.” That line reminds me of the history of my family. My great-grandfathers’ generation fought against Japanese aggression on the Great Wall, where Chinese people fought numerous invasions for thousands of years. The poorly equipped Chinese Army only had swords, but they “held the line” when faced with the advancing Japanese Army.
I can imagine what motivated the Chinese soldiers during those moments. I’m sure they thought about the people behind them, the future of China and the freedom that could be taken by the enemy. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. said, “The soldier is the army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”
My job in the Air Force is a military pay technician. I am here to serve the men and women who are fighting on the front lines of our mission and I will “hold the line” so they don’t have to worry about their income or families while serving our great country. I am also here to show my respect to everyone who “held the line” and fought for freedom before us. I am here to serve my country, the people I love and to honor my heritage.