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From refugee to Airman: Medical technician shares story of overcoming childhood adversity

  • Published
  • By Airman Alexandra Naranjo
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In the country of Liberia, good and bad days are extreme opposites -- a difference of children playing in the street and going to war.

For locals like Airman 1st Class Christiana Katta, war zone experience came at an early age.

She was just 2 years old when she and her family picked up all their belongings and moved every time war came near. Sometimes, they’d walk for days at a time.

After years of living this life, Katta and her family decided to leave their country in 2005 and move to the U.S.

Now in the Air Force, Katta, a 633rd Inpatient Squadron Labor and Delivery medical technician, reflected on life experiences that made her who she is today.

“We were scared to live in our own country,” Katta said. “We always saw on TV the life of Americans. It was the American dream -- the big house, the two kids, and the dog. We said, ‘One day, we will achieve that.’”

However, there were many obstacles for Katta and her family.

“My mom came as a single mom,” Katta said. “We were foreign people, uneducated. Our situation was always a struggle. The whole culture was new for us; our accents were different -- they were stronger and deeper.”

According to Katta, she also personally struggled with staying true to herself. She had difficulty trying to honor her culture while blending in with the U.S.

“I didn’t want to be African at one point,” Katta said. “I used to tell people I was Jamaican because that seemed more acceptable than being from one of the poorest countries in the world.”

Eventually, Katta came to accept her herself, using her experience as a young refugee to become a stronger person. According to Katta, going through those hardships made everything else seem easy. Even on her worst days, she remembers making it through what life threw her family’s way.

Thankful for the chance for a brighter future, and in hopes of giving back to the country that provided her family the scarce commodity of safety during war, Katta decided to enlist in the Air Force.

“This is the first place I lived where I didn’t have to run or move,” Katta said. “A part of me felt like I owed this to the U.S. I also thought I had adapted well to the culture at this point and wanted my citizenship. It all went into play; I could get an education, earn my citizenship and have a stable career.”

As a member of the labor and delivery department, Katta said the biggest part of adjusting to her new job was the long work hours, but those hours don’t compare to the honor of caring for babies. Katta is usually found with a smile on her face as she cares for newborns she knows will have a brighter start than her own.

“This place can take its toll on a person, but she’s always excited to do her job,” said Airman 1st Class Jovanna Garretson, 633rd IPTS medical technician. “She’s a very strong person to be able to go through all that and still want to care for others and speak her mind.”

For Katta, surviving a tough childhood and enduring a lot of emotional pain gave her a need to help others. She wants to give back and is thankful she gets to do that every day in a career and job she finds meaningful.

“I love being a part of the Air Force,” Katta said. “I’m really excited to see where I can go with the tools the Air Force has given me.”

According to Katta, it’s important to share her story so people know, no matter what background they come from or struggles they went through, they can still make a difference in their life. For her, she was able to make that difference in her life by joining the Air Force.

“A part of me is scared sometimes to tell my story because I don’t want anybody to pity me,” Katta said. “I don’t want to be treated differently or looked at differently, but in a sense, all of this has given me a voice and a story to tell.”