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Security Forces guardsman revisits childhood home, family during New Horizons Panama

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
Senior Airman Sheryl Job had not seen her aunt, Delia Sepulveda, in 18 years, but the tears brimming in their eyes while they hugged, July 11, said no love had been lost after almost two decades of separation.

Sheryl was born in Panama, and she lived in the small town of San Miguelito, outside Panama City, with her mother, aunts, cousins and grandmother until the age of seven. After her mother married a U.S. Army soldier, she relocated to the United States to live a life completely different from her humble beginnings in Panama.

The 25-year-old security forces Air National Guardsman stationed at the 119th Wing in Fargo, N.D., had always dreamed of coming back to visit her family though, so she did not hesitate to volunteer for the New Horizons Panama mission when the opportunity arose. Finally, she could experience as an adult what she only remembered as fragments of distant childhood memory.

"Coming to Panama is a blessing in itself," Airman Job said, "but actually getting to see my family while I'm here is a miracle. When I saw her, I thought, 'Man, I can't believe I'm getting to see my aunt again.' She was tearing up, and seeing someone you love tear up makes you tear up too. There were a lot of good emotions, and it brought back so many memories."

While Sheryl knew her aunt immediately after seeing her again, she barely recognized her now 22-year-old cousin and childhood playmate "Princess" Sepulveda. After 18 years, the two barely skipped a beat, and reminisced while scouring photo albums together for two hours, instantly getting to know each other again. Sheryl also met her uncle, her cousin Tincito who was born two years after she left for the U.S., and her second cousin, Princess's daughter, Alison, for the first time.

"I see Alison, and that's what I think of when I think of 'Prin,'" Sheryl said. "But 'Prin' is a woman now; she looks so different. Of course I've seen pictures, but it's very different talking face to face.

"My aunt was telling my mom on the phone that she almost had a heart attack when she saw me. It must have been a big shock for her. It was a pretty big shock for me to see my cousin all grown up too. It makes me want to hang out with her more. She's so much fun; I know we would be best friends really quickly."

New Horizons has been much more than a humanitarian exercise for Sheryl. It has given her a chance to revisit Panama and give back to the country of her birth. It has also given her the opportunity to be reunited with family members whom she has missed for years. She is thankful for the opportunities afforded her in the United States, and proud to be able to serve both countries while being an Airman.

"I came here for a job, a humanitarian mission, and seeing the effects of it, seeing all the little kids happy, and my family happy is just amazing," she said. "My family is so proud of me participating in this mission. They tell me, 'You are giving back to your country.'

"It's like a circle -- you're a poor little girl, mom brings you to U.S. to have a better life, you make your life better, and then you come back to make other lives better. I feel blessed. That's why New Horizons Panama means a lot to me," Sheryl explained. "The military helped me, so I joined the military to help the U.S. - to be part of the team. I never thought I'd be able to come to Panama and be part of a mission that helps the schools and clinics. It makes me feel like everything has a purpose. My main purpose in joining the military was to give back, and I can't believe I get to give back to Panama."