By Chief Petty Officer Sara Stack.
Imagine living in one of the poorest countries in Latin America; full of political unrest. One can only hope for a future that is charged with promise and opportunities, especially for their children.
That is the hope my father had. In 1987, my family received political asylum from the United States, a gift that changed our lives. My name is Sara Stack. I was born in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 7 years old. At the time, I did not realize how different my life would be and what opportunities lie ahead.
My first memories of the U.S. include a large open field at a refugee site in Brownsville, Texas, bright lights in an Eckerd drug store, tall buildings and long bridges in Miami, Florida. The new environment was strange, scary, yet exciting. My parents are hard-working individuals, who made a commitment to endure what was necessary to move forward. As life seemed to normalize, there were still many challenges to endure. Although I spoke the English language, I was not able to write or read it. I spent most of the day in a classroom full of kids my age but felt confused and isolated. Luckily, I was transferred to an awesome teacher, Mrs. Barnes, who used our recess time to teach me how to read, pronounce words, and spell. I believe the extra time she spent teaching me helped me to advance much quicker and made things easier as I went through junior and high school.
Growing up in the neighborhood of Carol City, Florida, wasn’t exactly the best of environment. However, there wasn’t much choice. We were simply trying to survive in a foreign country. I recall my father telling us to always be ambitious, to work hard and never settle for less. Despite the hardships we faced, my parents were persistent. They worked long hours and different jobs to move ahead. They taught me to rise in adversity by dedicating myself to excellence, always doing the right thing, and taking care of others. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, so I thought, “What could I do that would give me opportunities for a better life?” Without much thought, I decided to join the military. I wanted to serve in the medical field, where I could truly help others and give back to a country that gave me a better life.
My desires to pursue a career that served others, that was challenging and filled with opportunities led me to join the U. S. Navy. I have been proudly serving my country for 18 years, and it has given me more opportunities than I could ever have asked for, such as traveling to parts of the world most people only dreamed of traveling to. I wasn’t given my first choice of working in the medical field, I had to earn it. I spent several hours working on-the-job-training to show that I had potential to be a Hospital Corpsman.
As a 19-year-old, I started to learn how to tackle everyday challenges head-on with tenacity and fervor, which helped me grow personally and professionally. Despite regular work hours, duties, and deployments, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management and a Master of Arts in Administration. Most importantly, the Navy has introduced me to some of the most incredible, kind-hearted, servant people who have become lifelong friends, mentors, and family. Writing from Japan today, the opportunities continue, and I couldn’t be more humbled for what has been bestowed upon me.
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