Face of Defense: Soldier Follows American Dream to Her Native Country
CINCU, Romania --
The American Dream isn’t just an expression; it’s a lifestyle worth striving toward. For many people across the world, the pursuit of democracy, liberty and the opportunity for prosperity and success drives them to leave their homelands and come to the U.S.
With that in mind, one North Carolina Army National Guardsman uprooted her life for the chance to "pursue happiness" when she decided to leave her family and her life in Europe for a new journey in the United States.
Army Spc. Gizela Lupescu was born in Bucharest, Romania, and was raised by two teachers who instilled a pride in her to strive for more out of life and to grasp every opportunity to better herself. She grew up in a culture that emphasized religious, educational and family traditions.
However, as she got older, she started looking at other democratic countries and found her thoughts immersed in the American way of life.
After Lupescu graduated from college she had the opportunity to move to the United States, and those thoughts of chasing that American Dream she envisioned growing up as a child transitioned into a reality.
"To be fairly honest, I guess it’s the way I was raised," said Lupescu while discussing what encouraged her to move to America. "It's a typical Romanian thing. My parents put my sister and I through school, they raised us on Romanian traditions, provided our family with the best they could give us and then at that point it was time for me to spread my wings and fly."
Settling In to a New Life
As she soared from Romania to America, her background caused her to gravitate toward the Romanian population. As Lupescu started to settle in, she found a counseling job with the Girl Scouts and her new Romanian friends began showing her the beautiful and interesting opportunities America had to offer.
As she learned more about the U.S., her curiosity only grew. She wanted to look further, explore and discover more about this dream that she was living. The thought of leaving the United States never crossed her mind; she was hooked.
"I furthered my efforts and applied for legalization for adjustment of status, which took an extremely long time," Lupescu said. "The more time passed the more I saw that my naturalization had to happen because I couldn't justify the time spent in the United States if I were to give up and go back to Romania empty-handed or defeated."
After a 13-year process, Lupescu finally received her permanent resident status and with the same personal drive that inspired her to chase the American Dream, she decided to pursue a challenge that only a small percentage of Americans accept. She wanted to join a branch of the armed forces. Without a specific branch in mind, it was no coincidence that she lived near one of the largest military installation in the nation, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
"I figured the North Carolina National Guard was a good place to start," Lupescu said. "I fell in love with the National Guard; the dedication to state, federal and country duty intrigued me. I saw it as a challenge and it is a challenge that I was happy to take on."
Lupescu was assigned to the 230th Brigade Support Battalion as a combat medic specialist. Once she arrived to her unit, she discovered the North Carolina National Guard had a partnership within Eastern Europe. Never really expecting that her unit would deploy to Romania, she still decide to inform her chain of command of her background and how her language proficiency could be an asset if the unit ever received a mission in that part of Europe.
A sister battalion learned of her unique background prior to deploying to Romania and insisted on bringing her along as a linguist.
The 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, conducted their annual training in Romania while supporting Getica Saber 17, a U.S.-led multinational fire support coordination and combined arms live-fire exercise that incorporated more than 4,000 soldiers from six allied and partner nations.
From Lupescu's perspective, it’s very important that Americans and Romanians train together.
"Thinking from a Romanian perspective, I think that Americans couldn't have found a better ally to work with, and a better place to deploy and train," she said. "So this ‘marriage’, if you will, is a very good one."
"So, I joined after my dad died," an emotional Lupescu said. "My dad would have been thrilled. He is the type of guy that would’ve said, ‘Oh hell yeah, go try it out, see how it is. If it's not for you it's okay, you have an experience.' My mom is the, ‘My baby, what are you doing?’ type of person. So I'm trying not to explain to her every detail that we go through, our training and how you have to toughen up to become a soldier."
"She's proud of me. I don't think she knows how to put it into words, but I can read it on her face and in the way she embraces me," she said. "She trusts me to the point of making my own decisions and besides the fact that she thinks I'm nuts for joining any service at 35, she knows who I am as a person. She knows that I will try anything at least once."
For Lupescu, family had always been a central focus in everything she does.
"I don't think it's easy to start with nothing in any country," she said. "It's just the will of doing something to better yourself, to reach back and take care of your family."