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My father served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy for over 20 years, flying F-14 Tomcats, finishing his service stationed in San Diego. His time spent serving his country has always been a source of inspiration to me growing up, and I can honestly say that our family has been blessed with nothing but love and support from the devoted and hardworking military community that we have been accepted into as a result. Of the many ways this community has helped us over the years, there are a few specific instances that stand out in my mind as significant and influential.
In 2003, my family lost our home as a result of the San Diego Cedar Fires. In the face of tragedy affecting thousands of people, it was the military community that really stepped up for us. Over the course of the following year, my father's old Navy buddies, both those we had kept in contact with and those who had been out of touch for a while, reappeared into our lives to get us back onto our feet, offering us advice, compassion and a bit of much-needed levity. While the help we got made it possible for my family to get through the tough times we were facing, I believe the most impactful part of the situation was the opportunity to reconnect with some truly great people.
Recently, my father was out of work for the first time since his teenage years. During his job search, he found himself once again supported by former military people, who seemed to be present at nearly every job he had worked over the years and instantly connected with in a way that only a military background allows. Even after retirement from the military, the community has proved itself as something that really sticks with you in a lifelong capacity. He now has a job again, by the way.
And it is not only the outstanding individuals who make the military community so strong. The government's generous support for children of men and women who have served has made it possible for both my sister and me to attend college. Just over a year ago, I graduated from the University of California-Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree in cognitive science and now currently attend the University of California-Irvine working toward my doctorate in the same field. Pursuing higher education is very important to me, and not a day goes by that I am not thankful to be where I am, recognizing the impact the military has had on me personally. My father's service has influenced me to think about how I can give back to the country that has given my family so much over the years. This inspiration has shaped my post-graduation goal of working for the Department of Defense, and I can't wait to put my skills to the test while performing a service of my own.