AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- At 21 years of age Zuzana Drahosova left her native country of Slovakia for America. Focused on a better life, she had the U.S. Navy in mind.
After paying for an extension on her visa, Drahosova had $80 to her name and began working three jobs trying to build up enough money to survive and eventually obtain a “green card” so she could enter the military service.
“It was tough,” said Drahosova, who called Pensacola, Fla., home at the time. “The first year I lived in America I worked all the time. I never had a day off and was always struggling to get by. I was tempted to just give up and return home, but I had a goal and I wasn’t going to fail.”
Working three jobs and just getting by was not what Drahosova had in mind when she went to America. The military was a way for her to learn important skills and build a solid foundation for a new life.
“The United States has a lot of opportunities that most countries don’t,” she said. “Being from another country, I feel I am able to see what opportunities the United States has available to its citizens. The Navy was just one of the ways I chose to start my life.”
Drahosova’s first hope of jobs in the military was as a linguist, since she speaks four languages. But not being a U.S. citizen had its drawbacks and disqualified her for this critical job so she set her mind on becoming a corpsman.
“If I couldn’t be a linguist or corpsman I never would have joined the Navy,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to become a corpsman. It is really something I enjoy.”
In January 2003, two years after getting to America, Drahosova let the journey begin. She reported for basic training and later checked in to field medical school.
While in training she took her first steps toward becoming an American citizen.
“My chief in school gave me the citizenship paperwork and six months later I was granted my citizenship,” said Drahosova, who is now a petty officer third class. “Now I have nothing holding me back on having all of the opportunities that are available to all Americans.”
Not long after school she reported to Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 in Camp Pendleton, Calif. Soon after joining the squadron they deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in February 2004.
Drahosova was surprised by how quickly things were happening but said, “I took the time to try different things. I was able to help out with casualty evacuation missions; which was something I wanted to do from the moment I found out about the deployment.
Shortly after their return to the U.S. seven months later, the unit prepared to deploy to Iraq again. Upon returning to America, the Coyotes were at a 70 percent medical readiness rate. Drahosova had her work cut out for her and struck out to prepare the squadron for another deployment to the Middle East.
“She brought the squadron to a 96 percent medical readiness rate before returning to Iraq,” said Cmdr. Michael Dorney, the Coyotes’ flight surgeon. “On top of that, she was studying to get her Fleet Marine Force pin which she received a few months ago.”
Deployed again, Drahosova takes the time to get to know the Marines she is responsible for.
“If we hadn’t deployed twice in two years I would only see most of these guys once a month but I have gotten to know them better than I thought I would,” she said. “They are a great group and I’m glad to be a part of their team.”
Drahosova plans to take college classes and finish her degree while in the Navy and wants to how far she can advance in her career. “I like my job and enjoy the Navy,” she said. “I’ll see where the military takes me.”
Zuzana Drahosova is an American serving her adopted country with pride. She is not a quitter and is motivated to perform to exacting standards.
Moving to the U.S. with nothing, she now gives everything to the service of her fellow Marines and sailors in Iraq. This sailor is living proof that hard work and determination bring success.
*For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Herron at email@example.com*