At the tail end of four years of immigrant hatred, I came across a story of the American Dream that speaks to all of us . . . and gives us hope. I was captured by the graduation photo of a West Point cadet from 2016. The photo and the story was recently published on Facebook by Daniel Larsen (from Vancouver, WA) of Veterans Group NW from a post by John Bishop.
“This recent West Point graduate is Alex Idrache. He grew up in a slum in Haiti, and he tells the story of how U.S. soldiers were deployed to his neighborhood following the earthquake there several years ago. He says their presence was the first experience of “hope” he recalls in his childhood.
He remembers looking at his dad and asking him who the people were that were helping. His dad looked at him and said, “They are American soldiers.” He looked back at his father and said, “One day, I will be an American soldier.” His father knew the situation in Haiti was unworkable and tried for several years to obtain a visa to come to the United States. After being denied for several years, he was finally granted a spot in Baltimore. He purchased a ticket on a boat for his family and left Haiti. They arrived and Alex, remembering his dream in the slum several years prior, looked for a way to join the U.S. Army. He found a national guard program that allowed him to join the Army in exchange for citizenship. He didn’t hesitate.
After a series of fortunate occurrences, he was given one of the few spots at West Point for prior enlisted soldiers. Despite his severe lack of formal education, he graduated as an honor graduate (top 5% physically and academically) and the top student in the Physics Department. This picture was taken just prior to tossing his hat in the air, the realization of a dream that began 10 years ago in a slum in Port-au-Prince.”
Dan Lamothe originally shared the information in the Washington Post – washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/05/25/the-story-behind-the-american-dream-photo-at-west-point-that-went-viral/
Hateful comments from social media drove Idrache away from publicity, but not his desire and dreams.
Writing for the Black Rifle Coffee Company on May 21, 2020, Maggie BenZvi updated the story of Alex Idrache: AMERICAN DREAM: THE JOURNEY OF A HAITIAN IMMIGRANT TURNED US ARMY BLACK HAWK PILOT
Idrache also became a pilot. “I fly the most versatile aircraft in the Army inventory,” he said proudly. “I fly a Black Hawk.” He was in Germany for the anniversary of D-Day and flew at Omaha Beach.
He was recently chosen to attend Marine Expeditionary Warfare School, which he had been aspiring to since he was in flight school. “I don’t like being comfortable at all,” Idrache said. Currently a platoon leader in a command control unit, his nature is not to sit on his laurels. “I think growth and discomfort go hand in hand. So I just try to put myself in the most uncomfortable situations and meet the challenge. I use the analogy of the snake shedding its skin all the time to my soldiers to explain that you can’t stay in the same shell and expect to grow.”
But in the end he credits his success to his childhood in Haiti and the example his parents set. “To be honest, I just wanted to do my father proud,” he said. When he graduated from West Point, he received an award for having the highest GPA in the physics department. “I gave it to my dad and told him, ‘I got this for you. For all the days of waking me up at 5 in the morning, studying, carrying me on your shoulders. This is payback. This is just to thank you.’”
The story of Alex Idrache is a great way to end our Thanksgiving holidays and start looking at a new world opening to us all in the new year of 2021.