In March of 2020, the world came to a screeching halt when Coronvirus Disease 2019 stunned businesses, families, and communities all around the world.
COVID-19 brought unforeseen challenges that dramatically changed the way people went about their daily lives. However, for families like the Jimenez family, the pandemic was an opportunity to reflect and reevaluate their paths in life.
“It really took the whole world coming to a stop for me to realize something was missing,” said Airman Basic Richard Jimenez, 56th Contracting Squadron contract specialist.
Richard, age 37, his wife Jenna, age 30, and their 18-year-old son Amarion, all signed to join the U.S. Air Force in July 2020.
There are many reasons people choose to raise their right hand and take the Oath of Enlistment–from education to job stability to a desire to serve their country–it’s common to see kids join the military straight out of high school.
For the Jimenez family, joining the military was a light at the end of a dark tunnel.
“For us, the motivation was survival,” said Richard. “We instinctively did what any other family would have done in our position; find a way to make it out of that pandemic together.”
Before the pandemic, the Jimenez family lived a typical American life. Richard was in the transportation business; Jenna was ready to kick start a career in real estate, and Amarion was in school studying to become an auto-technician.
When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, the Jimenez family fell on hard times, forcing them to adjust their plans for the future.
“We lost everything,” said Airman 1st Class Jenna Jimenez, 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit analyst. ”(The Air Force) brought us back to our feet and restored our hope and humanity. We don’t take it for granted.”
According to Jenna, joining the military is something she had always wanted to do, but the timing just never seemed right. But after doing some research and talking to different recruiters, the Air Force fit their family needs like a missing puzzle piece.
“We chose the Air Force out of all the branches because we got an amazing recruiter who answered all of our questions without sugarcoating anything,” said Jenna. “It checked every box that needed to be checked. We all got awesome jobs. I’m so happy that we did this. It was absolutely in the cards for us.”
According to Richard, Jenna’s idea to join the military inspired both himself and Amarion to get on board. Also impacted by the family’s decision is their 4-year-old daughter, Leila. To ensure the youngest Jimenez was cared for, the family staggered their departures for basic military training.
Jenna said that although Leila is still too young to fully understand all the changes, the three recruits made sure she understood that they would be back.
As a military wife, military mom, and female service member, Jenna says she would eventually encourage her daughter to also join the Air Force.
“Even now, as we pass the flightline, she sees the planes and she’s like, ‘I want to fly,’ and I actually want to push her towards that,” said Jenna. “I want her to give to her country, and I want her to learn discipline. Discipline builds character.”
There are many reasons people join the military. Life happens, years pass, and many think a career in the military is something they could, should, or would have done. It is stories like that of the Jimenez family that reminds us it’s never too late to walk into a recruiter’s office and give the military your all.
“In the middle of the pandemic … the Air Force gave us a way out,” said Richard. “I would have never thought in a million years, this would be our path. I thought (a military career) was a long time gone. Never let anyone convince you that age, young or old, dictates what you are able to do and not do.”