A photo of a tear-stained graduate standing at attention during West Point’s 214th graduation ceremony quickly went viral for an incredible reason.
The man in the photo is 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache, who grew up in a Port-au-Prince, Haiti, watching American troops provide humanitarian assistance to people in his home country — where he says becoming a pilot wasn’t a realistic goal.
“People where I’m from don’t grow up to be pilots right? Like they don’t dream of flying a helicopter, that’s not something you do,” Idrache said, according to a West Point press release. “You don’t just say I’m going to be a pilot and make it happen. There’re no aviation, there’re no helicopters, no flight schools. There’re none of that.”
In 2009, Idrache was only able to speak basic English when he arrived in the United States to join his father, who had come to America to provide a better opportunity for his family. When becoming a U.S. citizen, Idrache was required to enroll in the Selective Service, and he eventually joined the National Guard “because of a free T-shirt!” he said.
In 2016, he graduated as West Point’s top-ranking graduate in physics.
“My dad always said, ‘Education is the only gift I can always give you, because I don’t have anything material to give,’” he said.