Resiliency, one Airman’s journey from Ghana to joining the force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Morgan Dailey
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Airports run on their own clock. People adjust their schedules to fit the airport's time. The muffled words of the public announcement system flood the ears of those waiting to board their flights. People quickly shuffle around, dragging their luggage close behind. 

The crackling speakers whisper the boarding for a flight. A young couple barely hears the announcement and rushes towards their terminal, startled by a young Ghanaian girl beginning to follow them.

“I was lost, and they knew it,” said Airman 1st Class Vera Rushwaya, 92nd Force Support Squadron customer service technician. “I was so nervous I couldn’t answer their questions, so they took my plane ticket from me, told me to sit down until the next flight was called, and then they were gone.”

Fourteen-year-old Rushwaya handed her one-way ticket to the gate agent, boarded the 24-hour flight heading to Washington D.C., and left behind all she had known.

The first of many challenges adjusting to a new culture started the moment she boarded her flight. Clicking the seat belt together is something most people subconsciously complete, however young Rushwaya only understood the basics of English.

“The young blonde woman seated next to me helped me with everything,” said Rushwaya. “I have a fear of flying and I was shaking in my seat, so she offered to switch places with me so I could be by the window. She gave me a book and suggested movies to watch. I still remember her to this day.”

Rushwaya was born and raised in Ghana until her dad received full custody of her in 2014 and moved her to his home in Washington D.C. A few months later, they moved to Alaska for her father's job, and eventually settled here in Spokane to be closer to family.

Rushwaya explained that one of the biggest challenges she faced was transitioning from Ghanaian culture to American culture. Everything was different, the city, the food and the language.

“I grew up in a very small town in Ghana where we barely had streetlights,” said Rushwaya. “At nighttime, my cousins and I would get together, buy street foods and sit by the street to watch cars pass by and pick which car we would like to have in the future.”

Rushwaya never imagined moving to a city with lights so large they brighten up the sky, or a place filled to the brim with new dreams and opportunities she never would have had before. Although this city offered new hope, young Rushwaya needed to overcome the challenge of learning a new language.

“I never thought I would be able to have a conversation in English,” said Rushwaya. “I look back now at everything I’ve accomplished and realized my greatest strength is my resiliency.”

Challenge after challenge, young Rushwaya exceeded her own expectations, but there was still one obstacle she wasn’t ready to face. 

“Although I wanted to join the military, I didn’t know anything about it,” said Rushwaya. “I literally thought the Army was the only branch.”

Rushwaya said she began researching her options when she was 17 but explained that she had too much fear to commit. A few years passed, and the option to join the military never faded from her mind. At 21, Rushwaya swore into the United States Air Force.

“I had never seen women in the military,” Rushwaya said. “The military in Ghana is very different from the military here in America.”

While Rushwaya was nervously thrilled about her decision, she received mixed reactions from her family and friends. Rushwaya said many of her female friends didn’t think that she would make it through basic training. 

Despite her dad being very supportive of her choice, the negative responses made her fearful to tell her family back in Ghana. Even after graduating from basic training and her technical training, her family in Ghana were still unaware of her decision. She waited until after she arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base before calling her grandma and telling her the news.

Rushwaya explains that joining the Air Force has been one of the best decisions she has ever made.

“Coming to America opened my eyes to all of the freedom I now have,” said Rushwaya. “Joining the military is my way of giving back to the country that has opened up so many opportunities for me and my family.”

Rushwaya continues to work at Team Fairchild’s 92nd Force Support Squadron, leading the way in creating, growing, and sustaining our Airmen and Civilian leaders.

“Be confident about your choices, live in the moment and remember it’s never too late to make a change,” said Rushwaya.