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Airman achieves dream of U.S. citizenship

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Growing up in rural Tarlac province in the Philippines, Air Force Reserve Senior Airman Anne Venice Jalos, a finance manager with the 446th Airlift Wing here, never envisioned that at age 19 she would be serving in the U.S. military as a naturalized citizen.

"Being raised in the Philippines was very traditional; we depended on our parents a lot. Women weren't encouraged to succeed; it sometimes felt like I was being drug down," Jalos said.

After her mother moved the family to the United States, Jalos felt emboldened with a new sense of hope for her future.

"Here, I knew I could be truly free," she said.

Soon after graduating high school and still relatively new to the English language, Jalos made the boldest decision of her life -- enlisting into the Air Force.

"At first, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know that gaining my citizenship was even an option, but I knew that I wanted to serve," she said.

Luckily for Jalos, her recruiter, Tech. Sgt. Erin Bush, a 446th AW development and training flight program manager, was well-versed on the military guidance on naturalization.

"This program offers all legal resident aliens the opportunity to earn naturalization as U.S. citizens through basic military training,” Bush said. “Once I really understood the potential of this program, I knew I had to educate myself on it so I could offer this opportunity.”

Armed with a new resolve, four weeks of citizenship testing and the successful completion of basic training soon culminated in what would be one of the most meaningful moments in Jalos' life.

"When I was presented with my Airman's coin at graduation and I knew I was officially a citizen, I was overwhelmed," she said. "Saying, 'I am an American Airman' finally had so much meaning to me because I knew that I really was an American.”

Full of patriotism and purpose, Jalos exhibits the kinds of qualities that many Airmen hope to possess.

"Being in the military has changed my life,” Jalos said. “I know I can become who I want to be."