SAN ANTONIO — A combat medic at JBSA Fort Sam Houston always dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen.
He immigrated to America from Nigeria, and earned his citizenship through the military. In this edition of Together We Rise, KENS 5 learned how this sergeant's journey serving our country was one of fate.
Staff Sergeant Ifeanyi Anyaegbuna trains upcoming soldiers at the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) at JBSA Fort Sam Houston. In a simulation lab, he teaches what it's like to be a medic saving lives on the battlefield.
"For immigrants like me, you can take hold of that opportunity like I did," said Anyaegbuna. "I know one thing, you will be a changed person."
Anyaegbuna grew up in Nigeria. Fascinated by the culture of the United States, he always wanted to live here.
"I am in the land where you dream dreams and dreams actually do come true."
In 2011, at the age of 30, he flew into Houston. His sister-in-law picked him up at the airport.
From there, he checked the first thing off his bucket list.
"The first thing [my sister-in-law] did was go to a fast food place," said Anyaegbuna, with a smile.
"Which was?" we asked.
"Which was the place with the golden arches!" he replied. He ordered the chicken sandwich.
For about four months, Anyaegbuna worked in marketing selling energy and relying on commission to make a living.
"I was happy to have a job, but it wasn't fulfilling to me, per say," he explained.
One day, fate intervened.
His sister-in-law asked him to print out a few documents. Not knowing where to go in Houston, he stumbled upon a building that looked promising.
"I walked in there, and I saw people in uniform," he explained. "I was like, 'I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt you guys. This is not the right place. This is not what I was looking for'. One of them was like, 'No, I can help you!"
The two started talking.
"While we were printing it, [the military member] asked if I have considered joining the military," said Anyaegbuna. "I was like, 'No.'"
After learning about the military benefits, he says it was an offer he couldn't refuse.
"I was like, 'Yes! I would want to serve in the military."
"You said that in that moment?" we asked.
"I said that right there and then and said, 'What do I need to do to join?'"
Soon after, Anyaegbuna was shipped off to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. There, his drill sergeants began his citizenship paperwork.
"How would I ignore the opportunity to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world?" said Anyaegbuna.
He moved to San Antonio's JBSA Fort Sam Houston to begin AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for his job specialty: an Army combat medic.
Here, at 32 years old, he got a call he will never forget.
"The leadership at that time here called my name, 'You're gonna be a citizen! We want you guys to be ready to take the oath tomorrow!'" said Anyaegbuna.
In August 2012, at JBSA Fort Sam Houston, Anyaegbuna became a U.S. citizen.
"There was an inner joy that I could not explain," he said. "I felt that solemn tranquility inside of me."
Now, Anyaegbuna's journey has come full circle.
He is back teaching at the place where his specialized training began.
"It's been a blessing to be a part of the greatest force on the planet, the greatest military on the planet, and it's been a blessing to be a citizen of a great country, the greatest country on this planet."
Sergeant Anyaegbuna served in Iraq during Operation Inherent Resolve.
When asked why others should pursue a career in the military, he said, "The men and women out there looking for an opportunity to change your life, the military is one way to do it. I guarantee you, you're not gonna regret that."
"[I'm] experiencing things I probably wouldn't ever experience," he continued. "Meeting people that I probably would never come across in my life."
Anyaegbuna and his wife, Chidinma, have three children. His son, Ifeanyi, is 10 years old. His daughter, Amara is 8 and Amanda is 4 years old.