HomeNewsArticle Display

Airman to publish story of tragedy, perseverance

Staff Sgt. Joseph Boyou, 2nd Air Force, reviews slides for a final review session for 2nd AF, 81st Training Wing and the 81st Training Group July 1, 2014, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Boyou was born in Liberia, West Africa and escaped the civil war there when he was a child. Boyou wrote a memoir telling his story of overcoming adversity. It is scheduled to be released later this summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Staff Sgt. Joseph Boyou, 2nd Air Force, reviews slides for a final review session for 2nd AF, 81st Training Wing and the 81st Training Group July 1, 2014, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Boyou was born in Liberia, West Africa and escaped the civil war there when he was a child. Boyou wrote a memoir telling his story of overcoming adversity. It is scheduled to be released later this summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) --

He could have faced another life, one that included becoming a child soldier and subsequently a lost boy from the Liberian Civil War. Instead, luck, hard work and true grit led Joseph Boyou to the Air Force where he now holds the rank of staff sergeant. 

Boyou, the 2nd Air Force special projects and programs manager, was born in Monrovia, Liberia. He recently signed a deal to publish his first memoirs to detail the ups and downs of his life. 

Boyou grew up in the capital of Liberia, until the Civil War broke out in the late '80s. Boyou's father managed to escape prior to collapse of the country and move to the U.S. to earn money so his family could join him. The rest of Boyou's family fled to Guinea in 1989 to escape the civil war. Boyou and his family lived in refugee camps in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Ghana until his father arranged for them to come to the U.S. 

During his time in the refugee camps, the living was anything but easy, he said. Hunger pains gripped his belly all the time and the family learned to live on meager rations among hundreds of thousands of people in the camps. 

"There wasn't much to like about it," he said matter-of-factly. Though Boyou did not have much, he had his family and their traditions. Boyou was quick to mention that many others lost their families to sickness, hunger or the tragedy of war, so he was grateful to have his intact. 

For those who stayed, "most got killed, or lost everything," Boyou said. "They lost their sense of community and home."

With his father's hard work, Boyou and his siblings left Africa for the U.S. in 1996. 


"I remember touching down in Philadelphia  and realizing it was a whole new world," he said. "I went from a world of survival mode to a world of abundance of everything. It was just a different grasp to see this new world. It was surreal to see the buildings and huge skyscrapers." 

"In Liberia there are two seasons: rainy and dry ,” he explained. “I had no idea how cold it was going to be." 

The weather wasn’t the only thing that surprised Boyou.

"I was stunned you could get food from a drive-through window," he exclaimed. "It was a bit of shock. It was a whole different environment. I went to a brand new school that had air conditioning. In Liberia, we are taught to be obedient. In America, I was amazed to see students talking back to an instructor."

Boyou thought America would be flashy and resemble what he had seen on television shows, but the TV didn't show that there would still be hard times in the U.S.

"There was a struggle in America, but it was different than the struggle in Africa," he continued. "In Africa you don't have it, and you don't know you don't have it. In America, you don't have it, and you know you don't have it."

Even if Boyou didn't have everything he wanted, it didn't stop him from pushing forward with his dreams of education, he said. He went to Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in psychology. After receiving his degree, he joined the Air Force in 2006.

"I joined to support my family and to travel," he said.

Boyou met his wife after he joined the Air Force, and in late 2012 she became pregnant with their first child. It was a very happy time for the duo but nothing could prepare Boyou for the loss of his wife during childbirth on Sept. 18, 2013. With this tragedy, simultaneously there came the joy of having a newborn. 

"The moment I held him, I became a whole new person," he said emotionally. "It has been devastating starting all over without my wife. I am still dealing with it, but I have had great support."

Even through all of the pain, the most important thing Boyou wants his son to know is that he was adored by his mother. 

"The main thing I want him to know is that she loved him very much," Boyou said quietly. "She did all of the planning; she did all of the work. She picked out everything down to the stroller. She did most of the hard work."

Boyou's son is also greatly loved by his father and it can be seen by those with whom he works. 

"My first impression was that this was an outstanding young man making the best way for his son," said Walter Hack, Boyou's supervisor. "In the six months I've known him, this feeling has only intensified. He cares very much for his family, both his immediate family and extended through his marriage." 

As a form of therapy, Boyou turned to writing to express his thoughts. 

"When I couldn't talk about it, I would write about it," he continued. "My son doesn't know the story, so I was really inspired and driven to write my story." 

With all of his thoughts on papers, Boyou realized it sounded more like a book.So he pitched it to a publishing company that loved his story, he said. Although people told him it was extremely hard to get published, the story resonated with the publishing company. He officially signed a deal May 29. The book is scheduled to be released later this summer. 

"My goal is to have it published by my son's first birthday," he said. "That was the main reason I worked so hard on getting it published, and it looks like it is going to happen."

Hard work was nothing new to Boyou; it was something his father had ingrained in him from a young age. 

"My father set goals and was very strict," Boyou said. "If I asked for a new pair of shoes, I'd get a book."

This mentality has carried Boyou throughout his adolescence, adulthood and into his life as a parent. 

"My dad is the strongest man I've ever known," he said passionately. "He instilled great values within all of us. Looking back as a parent, I can see all that he did for my family. He found a way to make a way for us."

Through the choices of his father, Boyou was given the greatest gift of being able to handpick his destiny -- the same gift he plans to give his son.

Engage

Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: #Airmen load up a C-130J Super Hercules before heading to #Bulgaria for Thracian Fall 2020. The @usairforce trains with B…
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: Airmen and Soldiers from the @CTNationalGuard delivered 21,000 cases of water from @fema to towns throughout the state in…
Twitter
RT @usairforce: “I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Official #ReadyAF
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA TOMORROW at 9:30AM ED… https://t.co/ok6km7nFoS
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Teammates, Let me start with 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖. https://t.co/xU6U3QuZV7
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Engaging through listening sessions, senior leaders are hearing directly from #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals on diversi…
Twitter
RT @PACAF: JUST IN: Three #B2 Spirits from @Whiteman_AFB deployed to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia in support of #BTF missions. @IND
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The #Airmen at @Creech_AFB make a global impact 24/7. The RPAs they operate provide vital intelligence and strike capabi…
Twitter
"I'm confident that our Air Force can continue to be the most dominant and respected Air Force in the world." -… https://t.co/PZQzLUGBxz
Twitter
Tactical Air Control Party Airmen assigned to @INGuardsman participate in close air support training. TACPs provide… https://t.co/BcyiAmfFmV
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: The @140Wg became the first ANG unit to successfully execute an agile combat employment exercise while at @Buckley_AFB. T…
Twitter
“I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Officialhttps://t.co/AKSjyQNq4s
Twitter
A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 317th Airlift Wing flies during a Joint Forcible Entry exercise at Dyess… https://t.co/t3VXu0ZYWj
Twitter
Pentagon staff applaud @cmsaf_official as he exits the Pentagon for the last time as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air… https://t.co/c9RXsc3lAO
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA on Aug 14 at 9:30AM E… https://t.co/GfPIHkx0zn
Twitter
An @EdwardsAFB B-52H Stratofortress completed a captive-carry flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Respon… https://t.co/HxxgE2In8C
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Just arrived to @NellisAFB to see RED FLAG, the #USAF Weapons School, and more. Because it has the best #Airmen and trai…
Twitter
“It’s no overstatement to say that brilliant ideas combined with trailblazing Airmen makes today’s Air Force the mo… https://t.co/qsDWN2Den5
Twitter
An F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 3rd Wing approaches for landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during R… https://t.co/EMKHnjC6p0
Twitter
A C-130H from the 302nd Airlift Wing, equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, flies over fires near… https://t.co/9BPVXNFual
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,266,871
Follow Us