As Long As We Are Alive, We Can Rebuild
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos was just 10 years old when he
tried to kill his father, Mikas, in his sleep.
Mikas was an
addict who not only abused drugs, but his own family as well.
witnessed his father beating his little sister, he decided enough
was enough. He waited until Mikas slept and grabbed the biggest
knife he could find. The child stood over his slumbering father,
summoning his courage to complete the deed.
“He was a big
man, and I was a little boy,” said Jim, who now serves in the 39th
Air Base Wing Public Affairs office. “I remember saying to myself,
‘if I am to succeed, I have to push all my weight down on his body.’
These aren’t thoughts any child should have.”
October 23, 2019 - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office non-commissioned officer in charge of Community Engagement, poses during a photo shoot at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Araos faced numerous consecutive challenges in his active-duty career and recovered from depression with the help of a Military Family Life Counselor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)
Suddenly Jim’s mother, Marissa, awakened next to her
husband. Marissa stared at her son coldly, knowing what he was about
to do. She told Jim to put the knife away, saying she will handle
the situation herself. The boy complied, and Marissa filed for
divorce against Mikas shortly afterward.
After the family split apart, Jim wouldn’t see
his father again until 10 years later.
The younger Araos
described his childhood as difficult and destitute. Jim was born in
the Philippines where he spent the first four years of his life. The
rest of his childhood was spent in the U.S. territory of Guam, where
his family immigrated hoping to carve out a better life for
“My father told me I had three options in the
Philippines: be a farmer like most of my relatives, a bus driver
like my uncle or a criminal like him,” Jim recalled. “Eventually we
decided to move to Guam, thinking there were better opportunities.”
Unfortunately for the Araos family, Mikas refused to abandon
his criminal lifestyle, leaving his wife and children to continue
languishing in poverty and fearing for their lives.
father was a gangster,” Jim explained. “He would constantly peddle
drugs and use them as well.”
Because of Mikas’ constant
abuse, and his lack of empathy when faced with his family’s
suffering, Jim vowed to never become like his father.
was one of the deciding factors which drove him to join the Air
Force. Jim had just graduated from high school and was hungry for a
new beginning. He saw the military as his golden ticket off of the
tiny island where he spent most of his life.
“I was broke
and I didn’t want to work in fast food,” said Jim. “I wanted to make
a better life for myself. The benefits were also very attractive to
me. The thought of healthcare, housing, education and a steady pay
check in exchange for military service sounded like a good deal.”
Jim entered the Air Force as a still photographer, where his job
was to tell the Air Force story by documenting daily missions and
global operations through photos. He described his new career as a
series of adventures. The military took him from his island home and
literally flew him thousands of miles across the world—everywhere
from Arkansas to Afghanistan.
But most of all, Jim found a
family in the military community: the family he wishes he had
As the young Airman built his career, there was
a thorn in his side which constantly harassed him—his bitterness
against his father. He strived to grow into the man he wanted to be:
a good man, not the degenerate his father was. But Jim realized by
remaining hostile toward Mikas, he would be doomed to become like
“My ambition was to not become like my father,” Jim
recounted, implying Mikas spent his life wallowing in bitterness.
“By harboring my rage, I was becoming more and more like him. I
needed to forgive my father in order truly to become the man I
wanted to be.”
Because of this, Jim called Mikas and asked
to meet with him in San Diego, California, where the elder Araos
“I told my father he made my life a living hell,” Jim
narrated. “But nonetheless I forgave him, and would no longer hold
his sins against him. That moment helped me move on with my life.”
Although Jim buried the hatchet and resolved his hostility
toward Mikas, he would never see his father again until he stood
over his deathbed eight years later.
Jim was stationed at
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, when he was notified by his
first sergeant (an administrative official in the Air Force) that
his father was in critical condition in the hospital.
drove to San Diego to see his father, he started sobbing
uncontrollably—something he never thought he would do for a man who
made his life so miserable.
When he arrived at the hospital,
he found Mikas lying comatose because he had suffered a stroke. His
relatives were also in the room, grieving and fearing the worst.
Since Jim was the next-of-kin, the hospital staff gave him a
dilemma: pull the plug on his father, or let him live the rest of
his life in a vegetative state.
“The doctor and patient
counselor informed me that I was the only one who could make that
call,” Jim recalled. “They told me that because of the nature of his
injury, he will never live a normal life. I could end my father’s
life, or let him stay in a coma forever. Either way, I have already
lost my father. It’s a situation no one should ever face, but I
unfortunately had to make a decision.”
Jim looked down at
Mikas, contemplating his options. He then remembered that one night
18 years ago, as a young boy standing over that same man while
clutching a knife. He seemed so eager a long time ago to kill his
father, and now he had the chance to do it legally without
But now, as an adult, Jim hesitated to end the man
who had abused him and his family until they severed ties. Jim
looked at Mikas not with bitterness or rage, but with pity.
After what seemed like an eternity, the son made the painful
decision to remove his father from life support.
hospital staff pulled the plug, I held my father’s hand; it was the
first time I held his hand since I was a kid,” said Jim. “That
moment when I had to end his life… it was the only time I ever truly
felt I was his son.
“The interesting thing about holding a
dying man’s hand, is that you feel their coldness very quickly,” he
continued. “When they turn cold, you get cold too. As I drove home
that day, I could still feel my father’s cold, dead hand on my hand.
Even today I still remember it.”
Even though Jim said he
didn’t have a good relationship his father, Mikas’ death had an
immense effect on him. He slipped into depression, which led to a
chaotic downward spiral in his life.
Shortly after Mikas
died, Jim served as a readiness non-commissioned officer at Air
Force Central Command headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, South
Carolina. His job there was to ensure expeditionary requirements
were being met for AFCENT. It was considered a “deployed” assignment
so his wife at the time stayed behind at Vandenberg for the six
months he was away.
During Jim’s tenure at Shaw, he
discovered his wife cheated on him and became pregnant. Upon
returning to California, he immediately filed for divorce. His
marriage however, was not the only thing he lost; Jim’s now ex-wife
took his savings, his car, many of his belongings and even his
“She took my whole life from me,” said Jim.
“Everything I worked hard for in life, it was gone in a flash. She
even killed my cat! A cat which I raised since I joined the Air
Force… she locked it in the garage and let it starve to death. I
also had another cat which survived, she took that one with her.”
To add insult to injury, Jim also contracted Lyme disease
while clearing out his home after the divorce.
about the Air Force’s four pillars of fitness: mental, physical,
social and spiritual, and how they collapsed before his eyes. He was
divorced, diseased, disillusioned and depressed. There was no doubt
his life fell apart; he had hit rock bottom and felt there was
nowhere to turn.
While lying at the point of death from Lyme
disease, Jim contemplated his life. That’s when he received help
from someone he never expected: his father, Mikas.
father was not a great person, but even he would try to give nuggets
of wisdom every now and then,” said Jim. “While I sat thinking about
life, I remembered some advice he gave me as a little kid: ‘stop
being weak, and keep moving forward.’ It was those words which gave
me the strength to get up and move on.”
from Lyme disease, Jim cut his losses and started rebuilding his
life. He reached out to a Military Family Life Counselor and shared
his story. He also sought help from friends, adding that it’s during
times of crises that people know who their true friends are. He also
made a change of assignment, moving from Vandenberg to Incirlik Air
Base, Turkey, where he now serves as the NCO in charge of Community
Engagement. This change of scenery is what Jim said really helped
him move on.
“My move to Incirlik was essentially a new
beginning for me,” he said. “I found myself a good group of friends
and colleagues, and I also made new plans for my life ahead.
Interestingly enough, I believe my journey through adversity helped
me become a stronger person. I can help people in distress because I
was there myself.”
One of Jim’s friends spoke highly about
his jovial personality and dedication to fellow teammates, adding it
was difficult to believe such a good-natured person could have such
a dark backstory.
“He’s an amazing supervisor to have in the
sense that he will listen to your problems and try to help, but an
even greater friend because he shares his knowledge and experiences
to show you how to strive past the negative to get to the positive,”
said Staff Sgt. Matthew Wisher, 100th Air Refueling Wing NCO in
charge of Command Information. “His positive attitude causes a
ripple effect because he is outgoing and welcoming, which is what we
need not only in the military but in life in general.”
Wisher, who currently serves at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England,
mentioned that listening to Jim’s story helped him find hope in his
own difficult situations.
“I’m glad to know Tech. Sgt. Araos
and hear his story,” said Wisher. “Having someone I can relate to
helps with being able to vent, and he also gives me guidance how to
overcome those circumstances. Araos is a great example of an NCO,
mentor and friend that we can take information from to help make
ourselves and workplaces better.”
Jim now shares his story to
people everywhere: whether it is at a barbeque, at the pub and even
during base-wide resilience days in front of hundreds of people. He
encourages his friends and colleagues, telling them no matter what
happens, they can always rebuild—brick by brick, and even more
beautifully than the first.
He also makes it a point to be
there for others, especially in their most trying hours.
am your brother; I am your comrade first, a colleague second,” said
Jim. “If you ever need help, never hesitate to reach out. I learned
I was never alone, even in my darkest moments. We are all a big
family here; if you don’t have a family, I will be your family. I
will be a big brother if I ever need to be. As long as we are alive,
we can rebuild.”
Our Valiant Troops |
Citizens Like Us
U.S. Air Force |
Air National Guard
U.S. Air Force Gifts |