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.”