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Airman deployed to the 332nd AEW shares story of life-long resilience

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing

At seven years of age, one Airman deployed to the 332nd AEW suffered what most would consider an unrecoverable tragedy.

Senior Airman Francis Andrew was born in Sudan in Northeast Africa where one night his town suffered the ravages of civil war, as soldiers attacked without warning ripping him from the life he’d known until that point.

This is how his journey to the United States and to the U.S. Air Force began in 2001. 

He found himself at a refugee camp first in Ethiopia and then in Kenya. He spent 14 years—all of his childhood in those camps.

“You see a lot of things that kids should not see—you see people dying in front of you, there are times where there was no food and water,” he said describing his life during those years.

“At that age when you are little you don’t really know the danger that you are in, especially now that I have a son who is the same age as I was when I kind of separated from my family. When I look at him now, the reality hit of innocently I was surrounded by danger. I know I was really in danger.”

At 21, he arrived in the United States—a hope realized—perhaps he would leave the uncertainty and chaos behind.

“America is one of the countries where when you work hard you can see the difference,” and goes on to say that if he were still in South Sudan he sees little chance he would be where he is today.

“One thing about me, I do not like to take things for granted,” he said. “I asked myself ‘what can I do for a country that gave me so much to be the man I am today?’”

He and his wife live in Albany, N.Y., with a 15 year-old son, where he is a full-time member of the 109th Airlift Wing.

“I made it out and this is what I did in life,” he said, and added that he hopes his children will someday say, “’Our dad came from nothing to where he is now,’ and I think that’s why I joined.”

He says that his service is rewarding, including deploying here to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing as a resource advisor.

He went on to say that it’s not easy to relive those years spent wondering if he would live to see another day, “but if it’s something that’s going to help people, then I want to talk about it.”