American Dream Realized In Navy
A small, courageous fraction of Americans serve in the United States military. According to U.S. censuses only 0.5 percent of all Americans, 18 and older, are actively serving. An even smaller amount are foreign-born U.S. military servicemembers.
Aviation Mechanic Airman Recruit Dirk McPherson, an aviation intermediate maintenance department (AIMD), IM-2 division’s airframe technician and assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), from of Guyana, makes up one of those few.
“I’m from the first village that was bought by former slaves in Guyana, called Victoria,” said McPherson. “I used to be able to see the Atlantic Ocean from my bedroom. I would run out there and swim with my friends, and now I am in the U.S. Navy, sailing the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away.”
For McPherson, joining the military meant fulfilling a lifelong dream as well as starting a new goal to become an American citizen.
“My family moved to the United States a year ago, but joining the U.S. military was always a big dream of mine,” said McPherson. “I always wanted to join, even when I was young, I just wasn’t sure about how possible it would be. But when my family got to New York, I learned I could get my citizenship and other benefits while serving.”
With dreams of seeing the world, McPherson enlisted in the Navy May 2021.
“I’ve always wanted to travel,” said McPherson. “Since the Navy travels the most out of all the other branches, I was definitely drawn more towards it. Most people in Guyana don’t ever see Europe or the Middle East, it’s really a rarity.”
McPherson said becoming a U.S. citizen is something that will open doors for him, in and out of the Navy.
“Making a career out of the Navy is definitely something I’ve thought a lot about,” said McPherson. “But being away from family on this deployment has been a challenge.”
Family is an important aspect of Guyanese culture. Now that McPherson is in the Navy, he has started to embrace traditions unique to America while still keeping hold of his Guyanese roots.
“I was invited to my first Thanksgiving by a friend aboard Truman,” said McPherson. “It was a holiday I didn’t really know anything about. I had all this food that I’d never had and played football on the beach. I’m really glad I went, it’s a great holiday that I hope to celebrate next year.”
Even though McPherson cannot spend the holidays with his family this year, he has gained a whole new family in the air frame shop aboard Truman.
“In the shop, we all pick up each other’s slack,” said McPherson. “If someone is struggling to finish a job or needs help, we are all there to help out. We work and live as one.”
One of McPherson’s best friends on Truman, Airman Alan Trillo, an AIMD, IM-2 division tire shop repairman, said that when McPherson is done with his work for the day, he will often help out others with their workloads.
“He has a really strong work ethic,” said Trillo. “He comes into my shop and tries to find me after he’s finished work and helps us or other departments, just because he wants to. He has a passion for the work we do and is extremely motivated. He’s very encouraging, he really embodies the whole ‘American working spirit.’”
Although both Sailors love to be productive, they enjoy hanging out, playing cards, watching movies or just talking.
“We get along really well,” continued Trillo. “We both like the same movies, have a similar sense of humor. We just really enjoy hanging out and unwinding. You really wouldn’t be able to tell he’s from another country, except for the accent of course, he just fits in so well.”
Fitting into his new life on the ship was as easy and exciting for McPherson as when he first came to America.
“Coming to America was exciting for me,” said McPherson. “I had seen lots of American movies, you hear a lot about the U.S.; beautiful scenery, work opportunities, beautiful people and big cities. Leaving my friends behind was sad but coming with my family, living a new sort of way, eating new food, new friends, everything, was very exciting.”
Having only arrived in America a year and a half ago, McPherson is looking forward to getting his U.S. citizenship through his service in the Navy.
“My chain of command is helping me with getting a citizenship test,” said McPherson. “We route a request chit up the ships chain of command, and around six months later, I can take the test. It’s been a really easy process because of how helpful my chain has been.”
Now that McPherson is on his way to becoming an American citizen, he often thinks back on when he was younger and his native country of Guyana.
“Since leaving Guyana, I have changed a lot,” said McPherson. “I have learned about people, different cultures, hard work and even holidays. I have new lenses to see the world through, as an American and as a Sailor.”