Breaking traditions

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kristal Stacey
  • 81st Diagnostics and Therapeutics Squadron

As a child my parents always told my siblings and I to take full advantage of our education opportunities, make sure we became successful, and to make something of ourselves.


Growing up as a Native American living on a small Mohawk reservation there are only so many choices that I saw I had. For generations our families travelled together from our reservation to New York City to earn a living as Ironworkers. If the men no longer wanted to attend school or chose to join the military, which most of them did, they would become ironworkers and learn the trait of their fathers and grandfathers.


The women were back home on the reserve taking care of the children and the household so I saw my future role was to have a family. As I got older as some adolescents do, I began to rebel and dropped out of school as a freshman, because of the limited choices I thought I had, because of who I was, and because of the crowd I chose to surround myself by, but mainly it was my choice.


It is not uncommon for children to give up on their education and to start a family early or at least become a mother at an early age. After a year of not being in school and realizing that all the big dreams I thought would happen without an education never happened I decided to return to school and graduated three years later as the valedictorian with honors and an acceptance letter to college.


After graduating with an Associates in Web Design, I found myself still stuck without any job opportunities, mainly because of a stereotype of Native Americans having a poor work ethic and someone better could fill the job. I spent a year working three jobs to pay bills when I finally decided that I had to leave and that I just did not belong at home anymore . . . I had a different path to follow.


I joined the Air Force in 2003 with the intent of expanding my education and travelling the world. After 17 years I have definitely done my share of travelling through military moves, deployment and personal travel.


The Air Force has taught me a great deal about taking advantage of education opportunities and mentoring. I mastered training in the nuclear medicine career field and obtained certifications in radiology, mammography, nuclear medicine and specialized in cardiac imaging for nuclear medicine.


I have earned two Community College of the Air Force degrees in diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine, a bachelor’s in health science and I am currently enrolled in a master’s program, with one course away from earning a master’s in health science with a major in public health, with a graduation date of Feb. 2021.


I feel that if I had not grown up with the background of seeing the struggle of my ancestors, my family, and the encouragement from my family to always do better for myself and my family then I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wanted to show my daughter that no matter where you come from or who you are, no one can ever take your education away from you.


I am Karonhiano:ron (Precious Sky) from the Mohawk Nation, and I am your equal. I do not stand behind you and I do not stand in front of you. I stand with you. We all come from different backgrounds, heritages and cultures, but here we are, together. I made something of myself. Niawen:kowa (Thank You)