When I was a kid, my mom bought one slice of pizza for my sister and me from a street vendor. That is a memory I will never forget.
In Michigan, our mother worked as an emergency room technician. Despite living in the city, we didn’t have a roof over our heads.
When we could get shelter, we did. We did not always find it easy. Growing up wasn’t always easy, but it was fun.
My mom never felt sorry for herself or us. When we were kids, we were a happy family of three. I’ve rarely seen someone with a faith as strong as hers. She never stopped believing in God.
Mom always made sure my sister and I ate. School lunches weren’t as popular back then. We had delicious, healthy meals every day with the school lunch program. Now that I’m a mom, I appreciate that program.
My mother, however, ate a lot differently. I don’t remember her eating much. She had no money after paying all the bills.
We were once again homeless after my dad’s phone repair business failed. We couldn’t find a place to stay during the brutal Michigan winter. Fortunately, my dad’s van was available for us. Every night in the truck, we snuggled tight to keep warm. He was looking for work every day but couldn’t find anything as fast as he wanted.
My dad joined the military desperately to give us a better life. We didn’t even have a warm place to live while he was in basic training. After graduation, my dad was assigned to a US military base in Italy.
Our excitement was mixed with apprehension. We had no idea what to pack. All we had were the clothes in our backpacks. We did not have any furniture. There were only a few changes of clothes we had to wear to school daily.
When we landed in a completely foreign country, it was unbelievably exciting. We had a home for the first time. Throughout the day, we had food more than once a day. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We also supported the community of military families who surrounded us and ensured we were looked after. We were practically living in a fairy tale.
I saw all kinds of beautiful places while in the military. I’m so glad I got exposure during that time.
To survive and thrive, we had to rely on our perseverance.
I knew as a child that I wanted to be a doctor because I spent a lot of time in the military. It was a natural calling to help people in need, especially those in the military.
Working for men and women in the Army taught me much about life. I learned to react quickly and assess them properly. I learned how to adapt to any situation that may arise.
While completing my biochemistry degree at UCSD, I got my paramedic license and worked as a medical-surgical, emergency room, and intensive care unit technician. I was only 19 years old. Working and studying were highly challenging, but I preferred them to be homeless again. I promised my future family they would never experience what my sister and I had. I am currently studying medicine at the University of California, Irvine.
Throughout my life, I have firmly believed in giving back to the community to ensure that strong individuals grow into strong adults. After graduating as a medical doctor, my goal is to work for the military. This is because I am honored to serve and am committed to helping heal, no matter what circumstance leads to the need for healing.
I believe giving back to the community should extend beyond healing wounded soldiers or providing medical care for military members. As a result, I do everything I can to support the homeless in my area. Occasionally after school, I go to McDonald’s and buy a lot of food to take to homeless tents, where they live without heat and running water.
It reminds me of the days I struggled to do my homework in the back of my dad’s van when I was a child. Even though I cannot change the situation on my own, I firmly believe that we will be able to change their lives together. We will give them a chance to live better. Homeless people require not only food and water but also hygiene, medical care, and society’s attention as they are an integral part of our society.