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From homeless dropout to Citizen Airman

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hull
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Of the hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless in the U.S., one Rainier Wing Reservist knows all too well.

“It was one of the toughest periods in my life,” said Senior Airman Troy Serad, an engineering assistant assigned to the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron. “It was the beginning of my 10th grade year of high school and I dropped out. We went from place to place, sometimes staying with different family members. It was a bad time.”

While this was a pivotal point in Serad’s life, this story starts many years earlier.

Born in Texas, Serad’s parents divorced when he was a toddler. His father moved to New York and his mother packed up his three brothers and him and moved to her home state of Washington.

“My mother didn’t have many job skills but did what she had to in order to support us,” said Serad. “She would work odd jobs and then got some training in the medical field. While working in a hospital she was assaulted by a patient and became disabled.”

Because of her disability, many years of struggles for Serad and his family began.

“When I was 8 years old I remember answering the door and a sheriff’s deputy had delivered an eviction notice,” said Serad. “For whatever reason, I would always receive the notices. I would take the eviction notice to my mom and she would always say that it would be all right. We moved about every six months but somehow my mom always found us another place to live.”

“Things weren’t right growing up,” he said. “We were always dependent on the state, receiving food stamps and low-income housing.”

As a result of the hardships Serad faced at home, his schooling suffered as well.

“When I was younger, it didn’t matter if I went to school or not,” said Serad. “I was frequently truant from school and my mom would always sign my notes. I was able to get good grades so I could make up whatever I missed.”

As the difficulties of life continued for Serad, things went from bad to worse.

“When we lost our house, we moved around with different family members or friends,” said Serad. “We were never out on the street sleeping, but we had to couch surf or stay at other people’s houses. I was not in school. I was around bad role models.”

By that time, his older brother Zackery had joined the military.

“When I dropped out of school my plan at the time was to get my GED and work for the railroad,” said Serad. “It was definitely ambitious.”

But Serad’s older brother Zack, a Marine Corps combat veteran, knew he was always destined for more.

“I knew he was intelligent when he was very young but I always remember worrying about him,” said Zachery Serad. “I always tried to make sure I was there for him, from the time I was in high school to fighting in Iraq.

When Zach found out that Serad had quit school he knew he had to do something.

“I told him straight up how I felt,” said Zack. “I knew that his potential would only show through with an education or a lot of luck. Serad boys don’t have much luck so education it was.”

With some tough love from Zack, Serad stepped back onto the path of success.

“My older brother Zack always told me that I would be this very successful person and believed in me,” said Serad. “I went back to school and the teachers bent over backwards to help me earn enough credits to graduate. I not only graduated with a high school diploma, but also an associate’s degree.”

Thanks to his brother and teachers that believed in him, Serad pushed himself to excel.

“Without my English teachers I wouldn’t have made it,” said Serad. “They expected better from me. It always felt great when my work was complemented and rewarded.”

After high school, Serad continued with his education and earned his bachelor’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington.

Soon after starting a new job at Amtrak, Serad was ready for another great challenge--the Air Force Reserve.

“Airman Serad serves as a role model for the self-improvement opportunities available as well as his outstanding focus on high duty performance,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Lafrazia, 446th CES commander. “His example will hopefully be a catalyst for others to see what education can accomplish.”

Being a Citizen Airman has positively impacted Serad.

“The Air Force Reserve has been more than I expected,” said Serad. “If you are not a part of the military you don’t know what it’s like. It rewards good work and promotes from within. There is a lot of value in what we do.”

“I joined for the education and medical benefits, and to start something new,” he said. “I also joined because of the pride I have in my brother being a Marine Corps veteran. Lastly, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.”

Sharing his experience as a Reservist to troubled teens is a passion for him.

“As an Airman I have been able to influence and enlighten what the military does in a positive way,” said Serad. “Lately, I have been working with a couple of high school students who are considered to be youth at-risk. I have been encouraging them about the benefits of the military and what it has to offer.”

Like his English teachers, his CE leadership expects Serad to Excel.

“I wouldn't be surprised to see him take on a significant challenge educationally, such as an advanced degree, or professionally such as a city planner, congressman or entrepreneur, said Lafrazia. “Whatever direction he takes, I'm glad to have him in my unit.”

Currently Serad is studying for the Law School Admission Test in pursuit of earning a law degree.

“Having this background has made me what I am today,” said Serad. “My dream job would be a senator or congressman; to be a representative of the people. I have this desire to help others.”