Fairchild Airman goes back to his Haitian roots

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samantha Krolikowski
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
As a child, if Iram Edmond had a crystal ball to see his future, he’d know one day he’d get to ride in one of the planes he’d watch fly over his neighborhood in Haiti. As a young boy, he didn’t understand that the world was much bigger than what he observed outside his front door.

“Flying was something I dreamed of as a little kid in Haiti,” said Staff Sgt. Iram Edmond, 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of inventory management. “I’d think, ‘will I ever get to fly in one of those?’”

Iram grew up when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the President of Haiti, was being exiled; it was during a time when people would kill each other in the street. The arrival of the United States military offered some peace to the violence, and eventually his family sought asylum in Naples, Florida, in the beginning of 2001.

Edmond arrived in the U.S. at the age of 14 and experienced what would be the greatest culture shock of his life. Everything seemed so big, from the roads to the cars. Houses in Haiti nearly touched compared to the large green spaces between the houses in Florida. He was used to a typical Haitian meal which included rice, beans and protein. Once he started school, he was served the typical American cafeteria lunch of burgers, chili dogs, pizza and sloppy joes. His parents started blending traditional American meals with Haitian food to help him get used to the different cuisine.

Iram didn’t speak a word of English coming from a Creole-speaking country , but he didn’t let that diminish his ambitions to get an education.

“When I went to school for the first time in the U.S. I was so excited to learn English,” Edmond said. “Everyone started talking to me, but I had no idea what they were saying. By lunch time, my head was exploding because I didn’t know what to do.”

To fit in and learn the American culture, Edmond purposefully avoided the Haitian population in order to learn English faster. He would hang out with people who only spoke English, watched American TV and listen to English-speaking music. After three months of absorbing the language, he overcame the language barrier and was able to have a conversation.

After graduating from high school, Edmond moved to Virginia to attend college. After changing his major several times, he decided to join the Air Force.

“Before I met anyone from the military, I was actually a bit afraid of them,” Edmond said. “But once I came to the United States, I got to interact with the military and realized this was for me. I wanted to do something that was purposeful.”

Though his plan was to go into the Reserve Officer Training Corps program during college, Edmond was unable to join because he was not a U.S. citizen. Since enlisting in 2011, he’s received his citizenship and would like to become a pilot if given the chance.

Although Edmond may not have began his military career in the way he dreamed, seven years after raising his right hand, Edmond won the 92nd Air Refueling Wing 2017 Non Commissioned Officer of the Year Award.

He described the feeling of winning as the same rush of adrenaline he had when stepping off the airplane in San Antonio and encountering his first military training instructor: he didn’t know what he got himself into. But as Col. Ryan Samuelson, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, shook his hand and congratulated him, Edmond realized his hard work was worth it.

“I thought, ‘wow, the base commander believes in me,’” Edmond said. “I don’t want to think that because I won an award, this is as far up as I go. I need to find a way to do better than I did last year, and honestly, it’s going to be a challenge.”

After winning NCO of the Year, Edmond returned to his childhood roots. He flew into Camp Haitian as part of a mission trip with his dad. Not only did he meet many new people including family members, he also visited the house where he grew up.

“I didn’t realize what life was like growing up in Haiti until recently,” Edmond said. “When I was little, I thought everyone around the world lived the same. If you get your three meals a day and a place to sleep, you’re considered one of the richest, even if you’re struggling.”

Life in Haiti is more peaceful now and there are more opportunities for the younger population, but it can still be hard, he added.

Within the Haitian school system, about 70% of the instructors have no teaching experience. During this trip, members of the non-profit group Project for Haiti were able to educate instructors to help give them guidance. Every three months a conference is held to train those who are going into education.

“I was glad to see these young people devoting their lives to help other people,” Edmond said. “My cousin and her roommate started the organization and brought 67 students with them during spring break. It was very inspiring for me.”

Going back to Haiti reminded Edmond of growing up and how he could feel hopeless, but he reiterated there’s no hopeless situations, just people who think hopelessly. He said going back to see where he came from was the best thing to happen to him during the last year.

“I had no prospects, but was able to get out of there,” Edmond said. “I got to join the United States Air Force and travel. Not many people can say that.”

When he first joined, his goals were more personal. Now that he’s had more experience in the military, his goals have become more Air Force-oriented: training the next generation of hard-working, professional Airmen.

“If something were to happen to me today, who’s going to be the next person to step up,” Edmond said. “I focus more on the people I supervise and lead to make sure they’re ready for anything.”

“I’ve had the best experience and words can’t describe how much fun I’ve had,” Edmond said. “I would tell others who want to join that this was the best decision of my life and I’d do it all over again. I’d tell anyone who has gone through a similar situation to keeping going and pushing through; tough times don’t last forever.”