SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- Many words are used to describe the United States; some call it the land of plenty, freedom or equality, but at least one Airman regards it as the land of opportunity.
Airman 1st Class Bin Ma, a 20th Comptroller Squadron financial services technician, departed Wuhan, China, in 2008 to start his adventure in America and fulfill his dreams of a better life.
Coming to America to further his education, Ma quickly fell in love with the country that he now serves and calls his adopted home.
"In China, people say America is a country of gold and if you come here you will be rich," Ma said. "After several years of living here, I don't think America is a country of gold, it is a country of opportunity. If you try hard, are well educated, and have a strong drive and motivation, you can succeed. America will give you the opportunity."
In 2014, having gotten his green card while obtaining his master's degrees at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, where he earned a master's in ministry and a master's in business administration, Ma enlisted in the Air Force.
"I am so tied to this country now," Ma said. "I want people to know that even though I wasn't born in the United States of America, I love this country as much as anybody else and I am willing to use my knowledge and capabilities to protect it."
Ma's love for America has spilled out into his work center and everything he does for the Air Force.
"When he talks you definitely feel that passion that he has," said Lt. Col. Jorge Jimenez, the 20th CPTS commander. "He calls this his adoptive country. He is very proud. He feels that this country has given him a lot of opportunities and he wants to repay that and what better way to serve his country than in the Air Force. That's what his drive at hand to do better and better is, because he wants to be here for the long run."
After seven years of being in the U.S. and away from his family, Ma became a U.S. citizen in January 2015, and in July he celebrated Independence Day with his new Air Force family.
"That moment really touched my heart," Ma said. "This year was different. I am not only a citizen, but I am doing my job to protect this country. It made me very proud. I will cherish that moment."
Ma's determination cultivated from his parents influence and family history. When China became a communist regime, his grandparents lost everything they had worked so hard to obtain.
"We lost our land, we lost our crops," Ma said. "That was two generations of wealth that was built up and overnight was taken away. We lost everything and life was really tough."
Ma's parents couldn't support him financially through school, but they gave him something much more valuable: motivation.
"We see we can lose everything," Ma's father told him, "but as long as you still live and as long as you still have the heart to succeed, to see the right things to do, and to go for it, with time you will succeed."
His father then told him a story of the eagle and the dove.
"There are two kinds of birds in the sky," Ma's father described. "There is an eagle and a dove. The reason the eagle is the king of the sky is because the eagle, when their babies grow up, push their children out to survive by themselves. The dove, however, always keeps their children together and they grow up as a family. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you want to succeed, the best way is to experience a tough situation."
Ma explained that his father encouraged him to be the eagle and that he and his mother will miss him, but they support him and want him to fulfill his dreams.
It was a difficult transition to come to America; however Ma took on the challenges and could not be more grateful for the way things have turned out.
"This country has given me so much and as a person and Christian, I have a heart of gratitude," Ma said.
Completing two undergraduate degrees at Hubei University of Education in China before applying to a master's program in America, Ma was one of the only 25 percent of Chinese students who even make it to the university level. He learned English in three years, as required to be accepted into the master's program, and received a scholarship to come to America and continue his education.
"I had a strong drive to help motivate me," Ma said. "If I see something that is a goal in my life, even if there is only 1 percent chance to succeed, I can try 100 percent and let God decide if I am going to get it or not."
Ma has turned his determination toward another dream he would like to accomplish.
"I want to do great in my job and I see opportunities in the Air Force," Ma said. "I definitely want to commission and I am working on commissioning in the Medical Service Corps."
The chief reason Ma is resolute on commissioning in the Medical Service Corps is because he wants to help people and give back to the Air Force since the Air Force has taken care of him.
"The most unique thing I have seen with him is that he is driven to do better and better but he does it in a very humble, selfless way," Jimenez said. "In the career field he is applying you have got to be a servant leader and you need to understand that you are there to take care of a bigger mission. He has a natural tendency to serve and is absolutely an asset."
Ma is hoping to soon visit his parents in China who he hasn't seen in seven years and is anticipating bringing them to America as U.S. citizens in a few years.
The challenges Ma faced throughout his life have been diminished by his determination to overcome them. On his journey, he didn't just find triumph; he found a new home, new family and a world of opportunity.