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A path of persistence leads one Airman to achieve their dream

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amanda Jett
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“Be true to who you are and follow in your own footsteps,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass once said. “You’ve got to walk in the path that was created for you.”

United States Air Force Airman 1st Class Cherrymin Clarke, 436th Comptroller Squadron financial management technician, knows a thing or two about walking her own path. As a young girl growing up in the Philippines, Clarke always dreamed of joining the military. No matter where her path took her, she was determined to follow her own steps to make that dream a reality.

“I really wanted to serve. I wanted to be a soldier or something [similar], but it's so different in the Philippines,” said Clarke. “I have family in the Philippines who are in the air force and army, but they're all men, and I am a woman.”

At a young age, Clarke knew she wanted to wear a uniform, and as she got older, her passion to serve never waned. In high school, she joined the cadet program Citizen Army Training (CAT). Similar to the Junior ROTC program in the U.S. CAT teaches students elements of the military such as the military alphabet, drill and how to wear a uniform.

In 2012, when Clarke was 29, she moved to the U.S. with her husband and started a family. They lived in Texas for many years, and throughout those years she continued dreaming about joining the military.

“I chickened out two or three times, this is my third attempt,” Clarke admitted. “First attempt was in 2015 and then in 2018 and then finally in 2021, when my kids were bigger.”

Determined to turn her childhood dream into a reality and follow her own steps, Clarke enlisted into the U.S. Air Force at 38 years old with the support of her husband and two children.

“I did not tell my family back in the Philippines that I was joining [the military],” she explained. “I did not tell them until I graduated [Basic Military Training]. I'm known as the weakling in the family and they couldn’t believe I made it.”

It wasn’t always an easy path for Clarke, as she faced many challenges throughout training. She admits her English is not perfect, and she worried about fitting in because of her age.

“I struggled at the very beginning,” Clarke said. “This is my first job in America, and I'm in the Air Force right away. It was scary trying to fit in being the oldest in the flight.”

As a motherly figure to those around her, she embraced her role providing guidance and support to her fellow Airmen.

“Overall, I gained respect,” she said. “They called me Mama Clarke and I still stay in touch with a lot of [people from BMT].”

Now, Clarke continues to exhibit the same level of care and determination she had pursuing her dream as an Airman.

“I went for it because I wanted to do this,” Clarke said passionately. “I would rather fail on something by trying, than to feel failure and have never tried at all.”