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From Haiti to Laughlin: One Airman's extraordinary journey

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
America has always represented a chance for one Laughlin Airman to achieve his dreams and he has always given his best in all he pursues.

Senior Airman Evens Perjuste, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron is many things: a student seeking his master's degree, a volunteer always lending a hand and a representative of the Air Force in the Laughlin Honor Guard.

"My mother always told me that in life if you do something, give it your best and always push on," said Perjuste. "I must do all I can do."

Now a surveyor and map maker for the Air Force, Perjuste's journey to America and his enlistment in the service is a tale all of its own.

Born in Port Margot, Haiti, the now 25-year-old grew up in a period of the nation defined by internal strife and warring factions.

In 1991, the president of Haiti was overthrown in a coup d'état by the Haitian military, and in 1993, supporters of the ousted president became targets and many were attacked by supporters of the coup, according to Perjuste.

"The transition years were difficult; people just didn't deal well with people," Perjuste said. "I saw beatings, and I'm glad I don't have nightmares."

What he witnessed as a small boy still makes the often boisterous Airman grow quite as he speaks. The politically motivated attacks and cruelty he saw on street corners and back alleys in Haiti helped shape his life and lead him down the path to service, he explained.

As a child, he wanted to be a doctor to tend to the wounded he saw in the streets, amidst the violence and political turmoil ravaging his country.

"With all the disruptions in Haiti, they needed doctors," said Perjuste. "I wanted to help out the community through the upheaval."

When U.S. forces entered Haiti under Operation Uphold Democracy, Perjuste saw firsthand the humanitarian work American service members perform around the world.

"It was interesting to see. During the 1994 transition, I saw the U.S. military doing patrols protecting us," he said. "I thought that I could go to America and help other countries too."

As time passed and Haiti began to settle, Perjuste remained with his relatives as his mother went to America. There she became a nurse and joined his father who had been in the country for years working as a tailor and taxi driver in Florida. They were trying to create a future for their family.

On Oct. 11, 2000, at the age of 13, Perjuste joined his family in the United States.

"It was difficult leaving my friends and adjusting to the lifestyle changes from Haiti to the states," he said.

For months, Perjuste's father wouldn't allow him or his brothers to play with the other neighborhood children. His father was too afraid that the rumors and misconceptions from Hollywood were true and that playing with American kids would lead Perjuste and the others to join a gang. Soon even that changed, said Perjuste.

"After six months, my parents relented. I began to adjust, play soccer and make friends," Perjuste said.

As he grew and adjusted to America, Perjuste credits his mother with helping him stay faithful to his dreams of helping others and working his hardest.

"I watched her study and become a certified nurse while working and raising kids," Perjuste said. "I watched her stop when she could have gone higher in her career for our sake, and that's when I knew I must do all I can."

So he did. He fell in love with computers, as most kids did in 2001, and began to study computer engineering in high school, becoming more and more interested in the software and hardware that makes technology work, said Perjuste.

He went to Florida Atlantic University on a full-tuition scholarship to study computer engineering, and halfway through his last college semester, his thoughts of service returned when he met up with a friend who had just completed Army basic training.

"He told me about his experiences through training and the environment he was in," Perjuste said. "He explained to me what he faced and how the trainees overcame so much as a team. It got me thinking about my aspirations and original thoughts of joining the military."

Perjuste at that moment decided that he wanted to serve his country and open himself to greater opportunities while in uniform.

"After a lot of research, I learned that the Air Force offered jobs in software engineering and that the opportunities the Air Force has to offer are vast and would allow me to continue my education while learning from a variety of individuals from all walks of life," Perjuste said.

In October of 2010 Perjuste joined the Air Force. A year later, his decision to enlist provided another milestone in his life as he became a U.S. citizen in San Antonio.

"That was a significant day, and it felt great serving my country and taking the oath of citizenship," said Perjuste. "Few get to raise their hands to both."

Now approaching two years on the job, Perjuste doesn't regret his choice to serve.

"I take pride in performing my job day-in and day-out, and I am honored to be able to serve my country and to participate in all that we do," he said. "Most of our fellow Americans will never experience such fantastic things or participate in something as vital as helping and protecting your fellow man."

Those who have known and worked with Perjuste, see in him the greatness and determination that guided him to where he is now.

"Perjuste is a very dedicated Airman and the most dedicated ceremonial guardsman that our base honor guard has had in the last two years," said Tech Sgt. Kenneth Bowman, NCO in charge of the Laughlin Honor Guard. "He embodies everything that is good about the Air Force. He is what every Airman regardless of rank should strive to be like."

To Perjuste, this is only the beginning of his service.

"There will always be new challenges ahead of me, and with the help of God, I hope to face them and conquer them," Perjuste said. "I will always strive to reach the vision of where I want to take my life, one step at a time. After all, 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'."