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NEWS | March 28, 2018

Soldier’s ‘good luck’ sparks lifetime opportunity

By Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Many people fantasize about winning the lottery. Dreams of a new home, a new car or exotic vacations may fill one’s mind when choosing those potentially life-changing numbers.

For U.S. Army Master Sgt. Monica Salamiiyile, Headquarters Training and Doctrine Command human resources specialist, winning the lottery in Nigeria gave her more than money and possessions. As the winner of the U.S. Immigration Diversity Visa Lottery, Salamiiyile not only won a new beginning for her family, but also the chance to honor her parents’ military service through enlisting in the U.S. Army.

Before serving half a world away in America, Salamiiyile grew up as a military brat in Nigeria, flourishing as her parents instilled family support, seizing opportunities and pursuing education.

By the age of 26, Salamiiyile was an established prosecutor in Nigeria, practicing law for the southern state of Edo.

“I worked hard to get my law degree, but I was already feeling like it was time to move on,” said Salamiiyile. “When I found out I won, it just felt right to leave.”

Salamiiyile said her coworkers regularly played the U.S. Immigration Diversity Visa Lottery, which gives individuals from countries underrepresented in U.S. immigration a chance to win authorized green cards for permanent residency. She had no intentions of participating until they encouraged her to give it a shot.

Several months later, the lottery was just an afterthought for Salamiiyile. As a newlywed expecting her first child, she found out she hit the jackpot.

“I didn’t believe it was real,” said Salamiiyile. “I couldn’t understand how I could just automatically get my green card. I finally realized it was real when I arrived at the U.S. Embassy.”

With the blessing of her parents, Salamiiyile said she and her husband left without fully knowing where this future would take them.

“I just thought traveling to America would be a fun adventure,” said Salamiiyile. “I was surprised at how friendly everyone was, and I knew this was a place I wanted to call home.”

Salamiiyile said the discipline, structure and integrity she learned from her parents’ service in Nigeria’s military helped her establish a new life.

“I loved seeing them dressed so sharply in their uniforms and watching them march during ceremonies. It sparked a curiosity in me.” said Salamiiyile. “I knew it was a big deal to join another country’s force, but rules and regulations were nothing new to me—I wanted to see where it would take me.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Major Annette Weber, Headquarters Training and Doctrine Command administrative and supply sergeant major, said since working with Salamiiyile over the last two years and hearing stories about her background, it only seemed fitting she would follow in her parents’ footsteps.

“After learning about her upbringing and her accomplishments prior to enlisting, I can see where she got her dedication and values,” said Weber. “I want Soldiers to see her perseverance and understand the value of seizing opportunities because you never know where they may take you.”

Salamiiyile said it is important for her to keep her kids connected to their Nigerian roots and she makes a strong effort to instill in them the same values her parents taught her.

“My parents love coming to visit their grandchildren,” said Salamiiyile. “We also video chat with our family in Nigeria and the kids love talking to their uncles. Now my sons are even interested in enlisting in the armed forces after college.”

Now after 18 years of service and two more children, Salamiiyile’s spontaneous fresh start has turned into an established career that has enriched her growing family.

“My biggest joy is to see my kids excel in life,” said Salamiiyile.  “My parents provided us with so much opportunity to succeed and pursue our education. Now, I want to do the same for my children.”

Salamiiyile said the combined joy of finding out her lottery win while pregnant with her daughter inspired her name, Uhunamore, which means “good luck.”

“She is my good luck charm. It was her that brought me all of this.” said Salamiiyile. “When I look back on what I have done and where I started from, I smile and I am so grateful for all my blessings.”