Ax Torres: U.S. Veteran empowering the Latino community

Ax Torres is a 31-year-old U.S veteran who proudly served in the U.S. Air Force and currently works as an Operations Manager for United Services in Lake Bluff, Illinois.

He is a well-known leader in the Chicago area and has been recognized for providing disaster-relief assistance during the Chicago floods and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He served as President of a chapter of the American Society of Transportation and Logistics and holds a Professional Designation in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

Now, as a family man and the father of two children, Ax wants to share his story which begins in 1989 when his family decided to immigrate to the United States from Mexico.

He was four years old when his parents realized that in order to provide a better life for him and his sister, they would need access to quality education and opportunities that were difficult to find in their home country, so they decided to leave in search of a better life.

The acculturation process was difficult. He describes a constant feeling of loneliness during his childhood. The people he met in the U.S. were different and he remembers struggling to adapt to his new environment. “It was difficult to fit in because I only spent a few years in Mexico and I didn’t speak Spanish very well, so I wasn’t 100 percent Mexican. I  wasn’t great at speaking English so I wasn’t American either. I was neither here nor there and it was a big challenge for me.”

His own thoughts about himself and his family were shaped by the people around him as he often felt at the lower end of the social spectrum.  His friends and peers had more comfortable lifestyles compared to his, which made him reflect on his own future. “I knew that if I ever had children, I didn’t want them to grow up the way I grew up. I didn’t want my kids to struggle. I wanted to make sure that they would never have to worry about food or clothes.”

Ax received a great education through middle school and high school. He became interested in joining the Air Force after working various jobs and attending a semester of college. His passion for serving in the Armed Forces came from the realization that his family had benefited from the freedom and opportunities found in the United States. He felt indebted to give back to the country and, although his parents were apprehensive about him enlisting, his peers encouraged him to pursue that path. He enlisted when he was 22 years old.

“By the point I was ready to enlist, I felt like I fit in. It was through the Air Force that I was able to become a U.S. citizen and it had an impact in the way I felt about life and about myself. One of the key moments that I can remember, which maybe was small but had a significant impact on me, was that I had to renounce my Mexican citizenship as part of becoming an American citizen. And even though it was very transactional, it was a defining moment because I had to make the decision that from that moment on, I was more American than I was Mexican. Not everyone views it that way, but that’s how it hit me and it helped shape how I saw myself.”

What he appreciates most about being an American is “being able to say: I’m from a low-income neighborhood and I am free to have the same thoughts and ideas about improving my life as the person on the other side of the spectrum. It is a great feeling.”  He emphasizes the importance of understanding the freedom and opportunities this country provides for people willing to work hard for it. An example of this is the effort he put into completing two Master’s degrees, one in Business Administration and the second one in Logistics Management, which allowed him to pursue a career he is passionate about.

When asked about what freedom means to him, he shared:

“The free-market is freedom to me. Whether you work for an organization or a business, there is demand. If that demand is not inhibited by the state, meaning if it is allowed to exist, people naturally will be driven towards it to supply others with something. Unfortunately, some people corrupt that system and turn it into a way of taking advantage of others. If that exchange opportunity is limited, then people do not have the access to the tools to become successful.”

Ax hopes to empower his community by communicating these ideas to others, particularly those who encounter language or cultural barriers so they are able to recognize when they are being limited by the government or by other forces. He wants people to recognize that, in order to advance in their business or personal lives, they must feel empowered and that happens through learning from other people’s failures and successes.

“If we try to figure out everything on our own, we are not going to live long enough to be able to do it. Learn from those in who share a similar path. If people take nothing else from reading this, I hope that they realize that sometimes the opportunity is right in front of them,  and they just need the right coaching or encouragement to go and take it,” he said.

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