Letters From the Front! Ready to Fall, Fail, and Most Importantly Ready to Rise
By Major Kathleen C. Chatara U.S. Air Force
I am a new Major in the United States Air Force. More importantly, I am a Latina, mother, survivor, and a first-generation American. I was the first in my family to attend college and graduate with a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree.
As in many Spanish communities, I was primarily raised with my beloved grandmother, Mama. I was raised by a strong character and hardworking take-no-nonsense women. As the oldest of four, I was expected to take on more responsibilities than most, helping raise my younger siblings.
Growing up, I moved from house to house, with nine different addresses in 10 years, which made it extremely tough to focus on my early education. None-the-less, school is where I found solace and peace, from a loud, charismatic household. My household was always full of children, aunts, uncles, and cousins. A home where the only kids invited to your birthday party were other cousins and friends that were somehow “adopted” as our own. Yes, my family, culture, the Dominican food, the Merengue, Bachata, and the love always came in abundance.
The other side of my story is I am a survivor in more ways than one. Being on my own since the age of 15 I had several close calls to work through. I bare a massive scar across my abdomen as proof. One early morning, I fell down the stairs and ruptured my spleen. I would spend all day bleeding internally and finding sleep to be my only comfort. Past the midnight hour, due to a fluke, I was taken to the hospital where I was rushed into surgery. Later, the doctors would tell me I would have been dead by the morning.
Despite it all, I always found blessings in my life. In high school, I joined after-school activities. I also joined the student council, where I held every position from treasurer to class president. I volunteered more than 150 hours at retirement homes, tutoring children, and at homeless shelters.
As a senior, I was recognized by the Miami Dade Police Department for all my efforts and always doing the right thing.
It has been my honor to serve my country for the last decade. Never in my younger years would I have thought I would be working in the Pentagon, doing my part to help shape the future of the Air Force. I have been in awe to have witnessed great Americans, powerful women in action in the Military and at Capitol Hill.
Through hard work, dedication, and an unwavering attitude, I have had a fantastic profession thus far. I am thankful to God I can be a role model for my two boys, my family, and my community. Most importantly, I am grateful I can be the small minority to represent girls and women that look and speak like me. If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be: Tough times do not define you, they make you!