My American Dream
By Joana Garcia, Emerge Virginia class 2014
All of us have heard about the “American Dream.” There are many versions of the dream depending on you and your background and how you envision your future. My American Dream came from my parents. I have lived the “American Dream.” I am a retired Naval Officer, a student at George Mason University, a wife to a retired Air Force Officer and a mother of two wonderful boys.
My parents, in turn, each had their own version of the American Dream. My father, born in Mexico, dreamed of being an American. He was thrust out into the world and living on his own at the tender age of 9 having lost his parents; there were just too many mouths to feed in his home. He wandered around the countryside for years in Sonora, Mexico working odd jobs and surviving off of the generosity of others. As a young man, he found himself in Baja California where he established a fishing service for tourists. He eventually was “recruited” by California farmers where he was smuggled across the border into California to pick fields of strawberries. This is when his “American Dream” was born. Of course, at the end of every season the Immigration Service would arrive and he would be deported back to Mexico.
My mother, born in Los Angeles, was a Rosie-the-Riveter during World War II. She literally riveted the wings of bombers in the airplane factories in LA. She was always a strong, independent woman but even more so after serving her country when it needed her. Despite that service, and the sacrifices she made during the war, when the fighting was over the country expected her to go back to the kitchen. She lived her “American Dream” and then had it snatched away.
Neither of these amazing people were ever bitter, and they raised me to be proud of this country and to take advantage of every opportunity it afforded me. My father became naturalized as soon as he was able and eventually they owned a small auto-body repair business where they were quite successful. We traveled overseas quite a bit and eventually ended up in Washington State. Through hard work and my mother’s business savvy they realized their “American Dream.”
Growing up with perseverance, drive and honor as the standard I enlisted in the United States Navy. Not sure of what I wanted to do I enlisted as a non-rated Airman, but I learned quickly that I wanted to do more. I saw decisions being made that did not make sense to me. I realized that I didn’t want to just follow orders rather, I wanted to understand why those decisions were made. So, I applied for an officers program and was accepted. I worked hard and 4 years later, after winning a Naval Scholarship, earned a commission. Both of my parents were very proud. I retired as a Lieutenant Commander Aviation Maintenance Officer after 20 years of active duty service.
The same opportunities that America presented to my parents and to me are the same opportunities offered to all Americans. I look forward to the opportunities Emerge will provide me and am eager to run for office to ensure the opportunities of the “American Dream” remain open to everyone.
This is my “American Dream.”