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Filipino Airman finds home, acceptance in Air Force family

Airman smiles in front of flag

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Juancho Benedicto, 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron rotary stock controller, proudly stands in front of a flag prominently displayed in his dorm room at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 5, 2019. The flag is a reminder of home for Benedicto, who was born in the Philippines and lived there until he moved to Nebraska at 13 years old. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airman watches movie with friends

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Juancho Benedicto, 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron rotary stock controller, often has movie nights with friends at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. He has created lasting bonds within the first year of his U.S. Air Force career, and feels the acceptance he was hoping for when he followed his dream of joining the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airman works at desk

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Juancho Benedicto, 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron rotary stock controller, tracks shipments of CV-22 Osprey parts at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 5, 2019. Benedicto had dreams of joining the military since he was a child and decided to join the Air Force in 2018, seven years after moving to the U.S. from the Philippines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Boy stands with grandfather on the beach in the Philippines

A young Juancho Benedicto, now a rotary stock controller with the 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron, stands with his grandfather on a beach close to their home in Manila, Philippines. Benedicto and his family would often drive to one of many nearby beaches on weekends to spend quality time together. Benedicto moved to the United States when he was 13 years old and later fulfilled his dream of joining the military when he swore in to the U.S. Air Force in 2018. (Courtesy photo)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – The heat of the Philippine sand nips at the bottom of young Juancho Benedicto’s feet.

‘Hot, hot, hot’ he says as he scurries down to the water. A soothing coolness washes away the traces of pain.

The beaches near Manila are where Benedicto would spend many weekends with his grandfather and other family members. He would often stare into the Pacific Ocean before him, unaware that one day he would end up on the other side of that ocean as a United States Air Force Airman.

“We moved to the U.S. when I was 13 so we could have an opportunity to live a better life, which is awesome because I’m now living life to the fullest, and it’s amazing,” said Benedicto, 20, who is now an Airman 1st Class.

He’s currently assigned to the 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron where he serves as a rotary stock controller, tracking shipments of CV-22 Osprey parts and ensuring each base they’re sent to has what it needs.

After moving to Nebraska, Benedicto said he realized he stood out from his peers as other kids thought he was strange, having not been born in the States. So, he joined his high school’s Junior ROTC program where he made a few lasting connections, which helped him take his first steps in joining the military.

“I’ve always wanted to join the military ever since I was a young kid. I got my citizenship pretty fast and was considered lucky, so I joined as a sort of ‘thank you’ for giving me another home.”

When Benedicto swore in to the Air Force just over a year ago, he said the main thing he was nervous about was being accepted. With the amount of time it took for him to make friends at school, he thought it would be a similar experience in the Air Force. However, that was not the case.

“He’s very considerate, he always has a smile on his face and he’s fun to be around,” said Ryan Watson, 906th Air Refueling Squadron all source intelligence analyst and new friend to Benedicto.

Benedicto made many friendships that he feels will last a lifetime soon after moving into the dorms.

“There are people from other countries here as well, and that made it easier for me because it’s like the Air Force saying ‘even though there are people from all different backgrounds, we all wear the same uniform. We have something in common.’ Being in the Air Force is probably the most accepted I’ve ever felt. I wouldn’t want it any other way than this.”