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New Hampshire Airman, Family Meet with First Lady

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Victoria Nelson
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

WASHINGTON, DC -- Marina Munyabuhoro, her mother Rose and her father, Senior Airman Theogene Munyabuhoro, a member of the Traffic Management Office with the 157th Logistics Readiness Squadron, gaze around a room filled with other Guardsmen and their families awaiting the arrival of first lady inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

“I remember everyone in fancy clothes,” Marina said. “I remember the luxurious gold patterns on the walls and ceiling, and I remember sitting across from the first lady.”

Marina was there with her parents for a roundtable discussion with National Guard leaders and families hosted by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. 36 states were represented, including New Hampshire.

“Our National Guardsmen and women have to be ready to go on support missions at a moment's notice,” Biden said, referencing the Guard’s promise and motto, ‘Always Ready, Always There.’ “And that means that their kids—all of you—know what it's like to have your mom or your dad missing at the dinner table every time they're called to duty."

Biden voiced the gratitude and pride she and the president share for the bravery and strength military families embody with humility and honor.

Children around the table shared pieces of their life stories and moments of resilience with the first lady. Rose teared up as Marina thanked Dr. Biden for her attention and her support for military families.

“It felt like a dream,” Rose said. “I am so proud of my husband for his hard work and perseverance to serve this country and my daughter. When I look at her, I see she has dreams just like her father.”

This event carried extra weight for the Munyabuhoro family. They resettled in the U.S. seven years ago, when Marina was 11 months old, to build a better life.

“The United States of America has provided me with countless opportunities and a life filled with freedom, stability, and endless possibilities,” Munyabuhoro said. “It has been a place where I found the support to carve my own path and pursue my dreams.”

Originally from Rwanda, Munyabuhoro first settled in Las Vegas, Nevada. He said coming to the U.S. challenged him with learning a new culture and language.

Not long after meeting a small group of Rwandan families and settling into a more comfortable daily routine, Munyabuhoro was in a severe car accident. He was transported to the hospital in an ambulance and taken care of by the many nurses, doctors, and paramedics along the way.

“My grasp of English was limited to the basics,” he remembered. “The medical staff provided an extraordinary level of care and support. They treated me with the same compassion and attention as anyone else. This life-altering event led me to make a profound decision. I realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping others.”

Munyabuhoro enrolled in nursing assistant training and moved to New Hampshire where he is part of a thriving Rwandese community in the area.

“In New Hampshire I aspired to make an even greater impact by serving my new homeland through military service,” he explained. “I was fortunate to connect with a recruiter who provided me with invaluable guidance and support, helping me through the [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] test preparation process and ultimately achieving a passing score.”

Munyabuhoro earned his U.S. citizenship after completing Basic Military Training. Now as a member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard and an American citizen, he said he is filled with a deep sense of gratitude and purpose.

“My journey from an unfamiliar land to a place of belonging and service is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit,” he said. “I am committed to giving back to the U.S.A., the country that welcomed me with open arms and supported me during my most challenging times.”

His leadership described Munyabuhoro as an incredibly motivated Airman and his wingmen say he is an amazing addition to the team.

“The work we do is rewarding, and what makes it even better is the sense of camaraderie among the team,” said Munyabuhoro. “We operate as a family, supporting and helping one another. I feel fortunate to be part of such a positive environment.”

Outside of the Guard, Munyabuhoro is a residential instructor with Easterseals, New Hampshire and an employment counselor for refugees. His daughter Marina is now eight years old and hopes to serve in the U.S. military when she grows up.

“I want to honor my father's legacy,” she said. “I want to be hard working and to be a good example to other immigrant kids and to protect and defend this blessed country.”

Munyabuhoro’s family and leadership at the Wing said they are all proud of his journey and moved by his dedication to serve.

“He is an inspiration,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Mercier, the senior enlisted leader with the 157th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “I truly could not think of a more deserving family for this opportunity. It is an absolute honor to serve with him.”