WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. --
An Airman from the 137th Special Operations Wing was presented the Freedom Citation Speech Award while attending Airman Leadership School in residence at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Nov. 9, 2016 to Dec. 15, 2016.
Senior Airman Amy Akpiri, 137th Special Operations Force Support Squadron, competed with nearly 15 other Airmen for the award, which goes to the member who wrote the best speech about the word “freedom” and its meaning.
“I was surprised,” said Akpiri. “Definitely surprised, but I was also proud.”
Though the award is presented at each ALS graduation, Akpiri used her and family’s experience to define freedom in a way that was unique to her. In the 1980s, her parents left their home and family in Nigeria to immigrate to the U.S. “with hopes of providing their future children the chances for better opportunities,” Akpiri wrote in the speech.
After arriving, her father joined the U.S. Army and obtained citizenship through military service, said Akpiri. This afforded her and her siblings the same freedoms he was defending.
Throughout her speech, Akpiri highlights the belief, courage and sacrifice that her parents showed throughout her lifetime and paints them as being integral parts of who she has become. She credits those same traits for her successes in life today.
“The constant drive they had to always keep going has motivated me to keep pushing forward and doing my best, both in life and in the Air Force,” she said.
The speech Akpiri wrote can be found below:
What is Freedom?
Freedom can have many definitions, but what it means to each individual is what really counts.
Freedom to me is BELIEVE (-ING/-ED) what you say and/or do.
My parents came to the United States from Nigeria years ago with hopes of providing their future children the chance for better opportunities. They left behind family and friends but BELIEVED it was all for the better. This in turn left my parents to fend for themselves so my father joined the United States Army. His freedom within the Army provided us with the freedoms of this country, and for their BELIEVING, I am forever thankful.
Freedom to me is COURAGE.
Although my siblings and I are were born and raised here in the states, classmates still picked on us for our names. Being teased in elementary school is hard but having COURAGE made a difference. My classmates would pronounce my name as “Aca-pickle” all the time as a child and sing the theme song to “Lion King” whenever I came into class. However, I stopped them one day by saying, “Do not pronounce my name like that, it may sound weird but it is unique and I am proud of my heritage.” All it took was for me to stand for what I believed in and announcing it in front of my peers. This profound COURAGE is what makes me free every day when I walk into situations where I do not feel comfortable.
Freedom to me is SACRIFICE.
This word is what really brings the other two words together. I had the opportunity to be a military brat. This has shown me many faces, various cultural backgrounds, a plethora of friends and seeing how dedicated my parents were in making sure we always were taken care of. My dad would work morning to night and still take on calls after duty-hours, sacrificing countless nights of sleep. My mom would do the same and still made sure we had a hot meal every night, homework was done and holiday traditions were kept up. My parents never complained because they were BELIEVING it would all pay off one day; they were right. They never once kept quiet while witnessing something wrongful being done because they had COURAGE to take action and say what they knew was right. My parents, to me, made the ultimate SACRIFICE, leaving their home, family, and friends back in Nigeria in order to provide a better life for their children.
BELIEVE + COURAGE + SACRIFICE = MOMMY AND DADDY “FREEDOM”
I want to leave this equation here because this is the formula of what Freedom means to me.