TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Dec. 29, 2014 – “Sono un aviatore
Americano.” When translated, these words represent the bridge
between two different lives for Air Force Airman Dimas Bernacchia --
the life of an Italian immigrant and the life of an American airman.
Born in Senigallia, Italy, Bernacchia spent much of his
childhood traversing Europe and the Italian peninsula. His father,
Giulio Bernacchia, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Italian air
force, flew the NE-A3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System
aircraft for NATO forces in the first Gulf War.
Air Force Airman Dimas Bernacchia assists an in-processing
service member with a travel voucher at Travis Air Force Base,
Calif., Dec. 10, 2014. Bernacchia holds dual citizenship in the
United States and Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman
"Growing up, I never really saw much difference between
the Italian and American air force; I just saw Air Force in
general," Bernacchia said. "Ever since I was really young,
I've always had this thing in the back of my mind about the
military, and I think that ties back to my father."
Early Exposure to American Culture
During the early
years of his life, Bernacchia experienced different aspects
of American culture, with his father being stationed at a
joint base in Germany. He attended American schools, and
surprisingly, English served as his first language.
"Moving back to Italy, the teachers couldn't understand me.
They would ask me to write stuff down, and I would write it
down in English,” he said as he laughed about the memory. “I
remember I was returning an assignment with a big X on it,
and the teacher said, ‘This is all in English.'"
Though Bernacchia grew accustomed to speaking Italian, his
parents maintained his dual language proficiency by watching
movies in English.
"We watched a lot of movies," he
said. "My parents knew English was important and would give
me more opportunities in the world."
Ability Opens Doors
His bilingual ability did indeed
open doors. At the age of 22, Bernacchia applied for a
one-year program to work at Walt Disney World in Orlando,
"I didn't even know what job they would have
me doing. I was just excited to go," he said. "Working at
Disney was my bridge to the United States. It gave me a
chance to learn and experience American culture at its
Bernacchia spent the year as a waiter at
one of the park's restaurants. He embraced the culture,
excelled in his profession and met Elizabeth, the woman who
would one day become his wife. The year flashed by, he said.
He returned to Italy after the program ended, but
eventually returned to Disney as a corporate-level manager
for the company's food and wine festival.
to the United States
"At one point I looked at my
life and thought, 'I have a family, a good job, but I want
to give something back to the United States,'" Bernacchia
said. "I wanted to pursue something that has always been in
my mind. I decided to enlist in the Air Force so I could
have a chance to serve this country that has been so great
to me, and at the same time, fulfill this long-lasting dream
of being in the Air Force and being a part of something
He left for basic military training March 25,
2014 -- still as an Italian citizen. After technical
training to become a financial management comptroller, he
arrived here in the early fall as a member of the 60th
Comptroller Squadron. He now had his chance to apply for
Attaining U.S. Citizenship
As a service member, Bernacchia fell under a special
provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that
expedites the application and naturalization process.
Meeting the qualifications to become a U.S. citizen, he
raised his right hand Sept. 3 to take his oath as an
"I remember walking out of the
building feeling as if I had somehow won the lottery,” he
said. “It's a surreal feeling."
Bernacchia said his
plans have yet to be written. For now, he explained, his
focus centers on his work within the comptroller squadron
and his role as a husband to his wife and their 2-year-old
"Anything can happen," he said. "I
was without a job in Italy, then I was working at Disney,
and now I'm in the United States Air Force, so who knows
what is going to happen next?"
By Senior Airman Charles Rivezzo, U.S. Air Force
News / Defense Media Activity
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