KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
“El vago trabaja doble,” was the most memorable advice given to Master Sgt. Gisela Solis, 336th Training Squadron client systems section chief and learning program manager. Her grandmother instilled these words in her when she was just a child.
“It basically means the lazy person works twice as hard,” said Solis. “My grandma was anything but lazy. Seeing how hard she worked to give my family this freedom that everyone yearns for is what really inspired me to join the military. I wanted to give something back to the country my grandmother risked everything to be a part of.”
Solis’ grandmother spoke from experience, she and her seven kids departed from Cuba in the early 1960’s. When she came to America, she had nothing but the clothes on her back and independently raised all seven, despite the challenge in a lack of support.
“Her mindset was if you want something badly you need to work your very best at it,” said Solis. “She had to do just that when coming from another country and leaving everything she knew behind.”
As a half-Cuban and half-Caribbean woman, Solis faced hardships growing up in the United States.
“When I was a little girl I remember people talking about me because of the color of my skin,” said Solis. “It’s not hard to take one look at me and notice I am Hispanic. As a child because of this I would cry and wish I could change what I looked like.”
Solis’ grandmother taught her to embrace her heritage and she began to accept herself. After joining the military Solis faced a different issue, also stemming from who she was.
“When I joined the military as a young Airman not only was I looked at differently because of being Hispanic, but because I’m a woman as well,” said Solis. “Some people, because of their unconscious bias, believed that I should be in the kitchen or at home raising children. While this definitely discouraged me, I think of the sacrifice my grandmother made for me and my family to be able to be here and serve.”
Last year, Solis’ grandmother passed away due to old age.
“It’s difficult because she was such a role model to me and my family, a lot of what I’ve accomplished can be attributed to her,” said Solis.
Solis believes knowing people’s stories can help us understand one another, which will in turn make us a better team.
“You never know what shapes a person until you know their story,” said Solis. “Till this day unconscious bias still affects us, but I believe we are heading in the right direction by educating others and telling our stories.”