CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- She was tired of it. The 20-year-old packed her things and left home.
"I just don't like communism," she said. "I wanted to be free."
She boarded a plane and flew to Belize. From there, she went to Guatemala and then Mexico.
The relentless woman crossed the border into the United States and after being detained for 36 hours during the political asylum process, she finally called America her home.
"I came to the United States in political asylum," said Sanchez. "A few years later, I joined the Army, and I love it here."
Spc. Dayanna Sanchez, a radiology specialist with the 53rd Head and Neck Surgical Team at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and native of Havana, Cuba, lives and works citing her family as the driving force of her success.
"I want to see them again," said Sanchez. "It's been years since I have seen them and I'm working hard to bring them to the United States, at least to visit."
She left Cuba a few years after earning her bachelor's degree in computer science with the goal to progress in her career and life, she recalled.
"She's never satisfied with achieving just the standard," said Staff Sgt. Kelly Collins, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 53rd HNST. "She's always go, go, go. We need more people like that in the Army."
Her tireless efforts follow her to the workplace.
"I never have to get on her about doing her Army development courses," said Collins, an operating room specialist who has known Sanchez for almost two years. "She is very motivated and always looks for other ways to get ahead in the Army and at work."
Sanchez' hard work recently afforded her a chance to compete in the U.S. Army Central Soldier and NCO of the Year competition.
"She was tough," said Spc. Armando Gobel, a health care specialist with the 10th Combat Support Hospital and the 2016 USARCENT Soldier of the year. "We fought during the combative portion of the competition and she didn't even seem to get tired."
Sanchez, the only female Soldier participating in the competition, had one of the highest scores among competitors in the Army Physical Fitness Test. She scored a perfect 300 out of 300 possible points.
"When I start working out, I don't stop," said Sanchez.
A few of her favorite workouts include high intensity running workouts with sandbags.
"I also take boxing lessons at the gym to change things up," she said excitedly. "I always have to be doing something."
Her busy schedule working as a radiology specialist and working out is not enough for the 29 year-old. Many of her nights are spent volunteering at the local USO, studying for a second bachelor's degree and keeping up with her husband in Washington and the rest of her family in Cuba.
At the end of the day, she attributes all of her hard work to her family.
"I often think on my family back home," she said holding back tears. "I'm doing this for them. I help them whenever I can."