“I’ve always been patriotic,” Ana Maria says proudly. She was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the Unites States when she was 11. After high school, she went to college and gave the nursing program a try because her mother always wanted her to be nurse. She soon discovered it wasn’t for her. “I decided to go to an Air Force recruiter who recommended I apply for the electronics carrier field. I’ve always wanted to serve our country . . . it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity and a great experience.”
Ana Maria served as a Sargent in the United States Air Force, on active duty from 1988 to 1994, then joined the Air Force Reserves from 1994 to 2013. She loved learning new skills and did various jobs, traveling everywhere, from Hawaii and Korea, to the Philippines and Turkey. But she found a great passion in the job of Combat Camera. “It was fun and different, we did a lot of medical videos, and went to Tunisia to document the medical personnel on active duty as well as reservists in the northern part of Africa for three weeks.”
But carrying around the heavy camera equipment, during her time in the Air Force, took a toll on her body. “If it wasn’t for my physical limitations I’d still be out there. The military has always been a familiar thing for me, being around other military people is my comfort zone so when I left the service I felt disconnected and lost. But God led me to Orange County and it changed my life. I joined the Long Beach VA, I started volunteering at the VA garden, and it became therapeutic and healing for me.”
Raised Catholic, Ana Maria remembers, “There was a picture of Jesus in my household, my mom taught me how to pray, I went to church every Sunday, but never really had an understanding of who God was. I would try to be good but I made mistakes, I hadn’t learned about God’s great grace and mercy.” Her daughter attended Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and was constantly inviting her mom to church, but she always refused until one day she said yes!
In 2008, Ana Maria gave her life to the Lord. She says, “Jesus was always calling me to be in His family, He was always there, from friends at school to strangers I’d meet, He always [found] a way to put people in my path that helped me. My life was changed. I used to worry . . . and I was even afraid of dying. Knowing Jesus takes away my fear of dying because I know where I am gonna go!”
This was her first time at the SoCal Harvest Crusade; As an Air Force veteran, she looked forward to carrying the flag. “I like to support other veterans and get excited to be involved in veteran activities!”
Thank you so much for your service, Ana Maria!