Editor’s note: Coming to America stories are unique to each person who has chosen to make a home in the United States. A National Training Center Soldier, with ties to Armenia and Iran, who came here in the past few years, shares her story below.
Her name is not used, because of the changing political situation in the region, where her family and friends still live. The 51st TICO is the first of two companies of Soldiers with the 09L Interpreter/Translator military occupational specialty. The company at Fort Irwin is mostly comprised of Soldiers of Middle Eastern and North African heritage and descent.
Her “green card” in Tehran after Iran’s tumultuous 2009 elections ultimately led Spc. A to Fort Irwin. As the 51st Translator Interpreter Company’s language manager, Spc. A is now helping her fellow translator/interpreter Soldiers refine their English skills.
“If it wasn’t for my immigration status, my green card, they wouldn’t have let me go,” A said. “This country is why I could get out of [jail].”
How A got arrested while protesting the disputed 2009 Iran national elections is part of her amazing journey to the United States. It started in Tehran, where she was born. When she was 2 years old, she moved to Yerevan, Armenia, where she was enrolled in an elite school in Armenia’s capitol city, where her mother was a prominent lawyer. Meanwhile, she spent her childhood summers on Long Island, N.Y., where her father, a former Iranian diplomat, had become an economics professor after moving to the U.S. following the 1979 Iran revolution.
A finished her last two years of high school in Tehran, where she had moved, to also care for her ailing maternal grandmother. Meanwhile, her mother and brother had moved to London. She later joined them there, after receiving a diploma in math and physics from a top high school in Tehran.
Although she had passed a highly competitive exam for enrolling in a top Iranian university, A decided to use money she inherited from her grandmother, who had recently passed away, to study at Sorbonne University in Paris.
“I didn’t have any scholarship,” A said. “It’s very expensive, but I talked to my parents and wanted to be independent.
“I went to France,” A said. “I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t know anyone over there. It was tough.”
Using the last of her inheritance money, A studied and graduated from cosmetology school in Paris, while continuing her Sorbonne studies. She also worked as a model for a jewelry line, after being discovered there by the husband of a salon customer. After receiving a degree in theoretical economics with honors from Sorbonne, she joined her mother and brother in London.
“The election came up, for Iran,” A said. “I love that country. Although there is all this politics, all this bad stuff in the media, it’s not. Tehran is beautiful, it’s breathtaking, it’s gorgeous.”
Excited by the changes in Iran as the 2009 election campaigns got underway, A decided to return to Iran to vote.
“My mom came with me,” A recounted. “We both went there to vote for Mousavi. We were supposed to be there for only one week.”
But when the election results were announced, A joined the protest demonstrations.
“I got busted with two of my friends, got caught in an alley,” A said. “I was being tortured.
Everything you can imagine, it happened to me. It took my mom almost six days to get me out. I got out because I was also a citizen of Armenia. I had dual citizenship. I also had a green card from America.”
After returning to London, for the next two years, A attended Oxford University, becoming certified to teach English as a second language and as a foreign language, while tutoring foreigners in English.
After going to Tokyo on a modeling assignment, A was invited by a Japanese friend’s family to stay for a week, a stay that extended into eight months. She then moved to New York.
“I decided I have only one father and wanted to live with my dad,” A said. “He was living alone.”
That was when a Marine she was dating suggested she join the military.
“Once I got to the recruiting office, I kind of liked it, especially for a girl,” A said.
“For me, it was a cool thing to do … besides the idea of a girl being in uniform, what I thought was that, if one day, they send us to Iran to fight, I’ll go,” A said. “I’ll go because I want that country to be a safe country, to have democracy all over the country, where people can talk without being afraid of getting arrested. It should be a free country.”
She then stated that America is about immigrants from different cultures, different countries, different backgrounds, who come together to make this country.
“I’m happy that I’m here, because I’m going to use all these experiences as a door, to open doors for me,” A said. “I try my best to carry myself as a good Soldier as best as I can. If someone pounds on me for being a Soldier, I push back. I’m proud of it, proud of being a Soldier.”