FORT DETRICK, Md. -- The United States was built by immigrants who invested their blood, sweat and tears to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Soldiers like Spc. Wolmy Louigene, network controller, Company A, 53rd Signal Battalion, Wideband Satellite Communications Operations Center, U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, and his family are part of this rich immigrant tapestry.
Louigene, born on Halloween 1990 in Port de Paix, Haiti, a city known for having the first ever mass slave revolt in the history of mankind in 1679, was the second boy born to his parents, Yvondieu and Wilmine.
Yvondieu left for the United States when Wolmy was 2 years old to establish himself before bringing his family. He settled in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, working in construction and later in a grocery store.
Wolmy and his older brother, Woldeeves, had sporadic electricity in their house by the beach in Port-de-Paix, but Wolmy said he has pleasant memories of his childhood. He said summers were spent traveling to his grandmother’s farm in the countryside where she would have royal feasts consisting of goat and lamb.
When Wolmy was 13, the rest of the Louigene family was reunited with Yvondieu in Florida. It was Wolmy’s first time flying, as well as his first trip out of Haiti.
“It was a culture shock,” Wolmy said. “It’s like coming to a whole different planet. The language barrier was tough. I had to look a lot of words up. I learned a lot of English by watching TV with the captions on.”
Despite the language barrier, Wolmy said coming to the U.S. was a dream come true for him and his family.
“The opportunities I was going to have for the rest of my life were going to be greater than those back in Haiti,” Wolmy said. “Now we (his family) could become whatever we want and impact the world in whatever fashion we chose.”
Even though things in the U.S. were very different for Wolmy, he said South Florida’s large Haitian community made the transition easier. He said one of the more noticeable differences between Haiti and the U.S. was shopping – specifically the outdoor markets with individual vendors selling food and products in Haiti, whereas in America there are one-stop shopping options such as Walmart.
Before Wolmy joined the Army, he worked in a gym, drove Uber and attended college. Woldeeves, four years older than Wolmy, had already enlisted and often spoke of the benefits military service offers.
“The Army gives you a leg up when it comes to school, opportunities and experiences,” Wolmy said. “It’s one of the only good jobs you can get with no experience. You get paid to learn a skill that you can leave with and have the rest of your life to provide for your family.”
Wolmy joined the Army in November 2017, and his first duty station was with the 53rd Signal Battalion at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
“This is a great opportunity to give back to the nation that has given me and my family so much, including now my beautiful daughter,” Wolmy said. “The Army is paving the way for me and my family to have a great impact on this country.”
Woldeeves, a sergeant currently in the process of commissioning as an officer as part of a nursing program for active duty Soldiers at the University of Alabama, has inspired Wolmy to possibly follow the same path in the future. For now though, he said working with satellites at the 53rd Signal Battalion has been a great experience.
“When I go to work, I work with satellite data 22,000 miles in orbit,” Wolmy said. “Those are billion-dollar investments that our government makes for the safety of our nation, and we get to take care of them, make sure they are operational, and make sure they do their job for the (Department of Defense).”
Wolmy said his Army career is training him to get a job in the civilian sector when he gets out. He is not sure at this point how long he will stay in, but winning the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Best Warrior Soldier category has helped make him feel right at home in his unit.
“Seeing the joy in my leadership’s eyes for my success has been great,” he said. “I am grateful for my leadership. They really got me to where I am today.”
Wolmy said winning the competition has been a great turning point in his Army career.
“It’s going to push me to do more and to try to be an example for my peers to follow, and down the line when I am a leader, my subordinates should be able to look at me for inspiration and guidance,” he said. “I am the prime example of not mattering where you came from or where and how you grew up – being here, you have all the opportunities that are available to everyone. You just have to grasp and run with them. No one is going to stop you.”