From military child to Airman

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class April Lancto, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, is held by her father, Mark, pictured at about eight months old in 1991. Lancto was a military child who dreamt about joining the military since she was five and in 2015, she made her dreams come true and enlisted into the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class April Lancto, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, is held by her father, Mark, pictured at about eight months old in 1991. Lancto was a military child who dreamt about joining the military since she was five and in 2015, she made her dreams come true and enlisted into the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class April Lancto, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, smiles in a photo with her fiancé, Taylore, during her Basic Military Training graduation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 15, 2016. Lancto joined the Air Force because she wanted to continue a family tradition of military service. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class April Lancto, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, smiles in a photo with her fiancé, Taylore, during her Basic Military Training graduation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 15, 2016. Lancto joined the Air Force because she wanted to continue a family tradition of military service. (Courtesy photo)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

The darkness. The mist. The early morning wake-ups. The long-periods of time I would not see my dad.

My dad was in the U.S. Navy for more than 20 years. The last half of his military career was during the beginning of my life.  

My family had the opportunity to live in destinations such as California, Florida, Japan, South Korea. We went on multiple road trips and vacationed throughout the U.S.

I will not sugar coat it. Growing up in a military family was difficult. Amidst the many adventures and memories, there were sad moments.

I can still remember the street lights passing by as we drove at five in the morning. I would groggily hug my dad goodbye and wave to him as he slowly faded into the darkness. He would be gone months at a time. While he was away, any time he called or mailed a letter, I would get so excited. I missed him.

While my dad was deployed overseas, my mom balanced home and work life.

Growing up, I thought our family situation was normal. I had a bunch of friends with parents in the military. However, once my dad retired and we moved, I realized my family is part of a small percentage of the nation. Military members make up less than one percent of the U.S. population.   

My dad answered a calling. He chose to put on the uniform every single day to provide for my mom, brother and me.

While he served, I had an urge to join. I found comfort in watching the news overseas in hopes of seeing my dad, but did not know at the young age of five that there was an extremely low possibility it would happen. I would see so many different troops overseas fighting for our country. My dream to join the military began at this young age.

As I got older, I still wanted to join. I brought it up to my dad my senior year in high school and oddly enough, both he and my mother did not support my decision. So, I decided to go to college like they wanted me to do. I was going to major in journalism with the hopes of becoming an embedded journalist. If I couldn’t get the blessing of my parents to join, I was determined to get as close as I could to being in the military. I asked my parents again only to receive the same reply – no. I was relentless and two years later I asked again and finally my parents were at peace with my decision to join.

In 2013, I pursued the commissioned officer route. After taking the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, meeting with the officer recruiter, interviewing with the recruiting squadron commander and waiting for results, I found out I did not make the cut to go to Officer Training School. Still determined to serve, I decided to enlist.

My parents’ advice to go to college and the coursework I completed then helped prepare me for my new role today as an Air Force photojournalist.

Over the years, I have moved approximately 20 separate times with some of these moves being within the same state. I have learned so many life lessons on top of the lessons my dad taught me growing up.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that no matter which road life takes you, if you continue to pursue your dreams, they can become reality.  I’m proud to finally call myself an American Airman…I hope you are too!