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Overcoming Barriers: Airman reflects on twenty-four years of service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar -- Still wearing his uniform, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Medina Sanchez, manager of the Hot Grab-n-Go kitchen at the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, takes his seat in the front row of his Introduction to Writing class on May 24.


For Medina Sanchez, it's the last classes needed to complete his Community College of the Air Force Associates Degree. With 24 years and counting Medina Sanchez reflects back to 1991, to a time when he never thought this would be possible.


“In the year 1991, I was disappointed that I was not going to go to school [college] in Mexico like all my friends and classmates,” Medina Sanchez said. “I had no money to attend classes, so I started working to contribute to my house and help my mother.”


Medina Sanchez encountered many barriers over the course of his life; money for college was the first one of his adult life. Soon after secondary school he was given a chance to go to the United States of America, and essentially start a new life .To him, however, it really didn’t seem like the best option at the time. He had hoped to go to college first, like the rest of his friends in Mexico.

“I had the great opportunity of a lifetime right before me, but I did not know it at the time,” recalls Medina Sanchez when receiving the offer to live with his father in San Diego, California.

Discovering that jobs are hard to find, and that you are powerless when you don’t speak the language of your new home, Medina Sanchez took it upon himself to learn English as a second language and devoted nine months to learning the basics. Through this new opportunity, other opportunities became apparent and other doors began to open.  

While walking down a street in San Diego, California and looking for better job prospects, Medina Sanchez came across a recruiting building that had all branches of the armed services to include guard and reserve. 

“I needed a better job, with opportunities to improve, receive training and a better pay. I ended [up] walking into a recruiting building. The Air Force recruiter was in his office, not outside like the other branches,” Medina Sanchez said.  

Before Medina Sanchez could join the Air Force, he had to overcome another barrier.

His recruiter, then-Staff Sgt. Gard Roundy told Medina Sanchez that he needed a High School Diploma. Roundy assisted him in enrolling into Foundation High School. The course was six months long but Medina Sanchez completed it in three months.

Throughout the next twenty-four years, his goal was to set an example for fellow Airmen and his children. Medina Sanchez took advantage of all the opportunities that the Air Force afforded him.

“I did not think becoming a U.S. citizen, traveling around the world, or getting married and having children was possible,” reflects Medina Sanchez. “I received training, education, mentoring, and guidance to enhance and develop myself, [along with] a healthy lifestyle and a paycheck. I love what the Air Force has done for me and my family.”

When asked about what he would like to pass on to the next generation Medina Sanchez responded, “The Air Force taught me to plan and to prepare to be ready for anything that the future might bring our way.”

Medina Sanchez anticipates retiring upon his return from this deployment. He is eager to start planning the next phase of his life. He looks forward to moving back to Spokane, Washington, completing his bachelor’s degree and spending more time with his children.

“Joining the Air Force was a very good decision that changed my life in a positive way,” Medina Sanchez said. “It gave me the tools to become a successful Airman and citizen for my family and my country.”