He is making headlines and shares on social medias networks. Komi Afetse is a young man from Togo whose journey to the United-States was not the easiest. Now Officer in the U.S. Army and Database Systems engineer at the Pentagon, he just released a book titled, “Chasing My Dream”: An African Immigrant Story in America.
Myafricainfos.com: Hello Komi Afetse! How does a Togolese migrant make it to the Pentagon?
Komi Afetse: Hello MyAfricaInfos! It was July 2010, being tired of the odd jobs from left to right and seeing that my life was not following the course I wanted, I followed the advice of someone who had told me about the Army 8 months earlier. So, I joined the army as enlisted soldier first and kept looking for opportunities to move up. I deployed to Djibouti, worked in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Germany.
With my desire to give the best of myself and always striving to advance in my career, I went back to university while working, and in 2013 I got my bachelor degree, which opened the door for me to apply to Become an officer in the U.S Army (you need at least a bachelor degree to become an officer).
Two years later, in 2015 my application was approved and after training at the Officer’s school, I became an Officer of the U.S. Army. This officer status offered me even more opportunities which led me to the Pentagon after a brief stay at the State Department. This is a summary of my story.
Most of African dream about America. Does living in the United States is the same as dreamed?
(Smile) In Africa all of us, had dreamed of an Eldorado where money flows and where everything is easy. But when you get here, the reality is completely different. In Western countries in general, and in the United States in particular, you must start all over again, find a little job to start, look for an apartment, learn the language, go back to school if you want of course, etc…. In short, it really takes time, patience, courage and perseverance. But the difference is that you have at least the opportunity to do something with your life if you really want to succeed.
Your first months in the United States has not been easy. The very first night spent in detention…?
At first, I wanted to go to the United States to study. So, I started by applying for a student visa at the Embassy of the United States in Lomé in 2001 to come here, but this first request was rejected on December 31st, 2001. I renewed the application in 2002, then in 2003 to finally get the visa after the last attempt in 2004.
I arrived in the United States on 24 March 2004, but unfortunately my visa was rejected at the airport where after an audit I was informed that I was not eligible because I was late going to the university where I had registered. The worst is that I couldn’t understand much of the questions I was asked due to me not speaking English. Consequently, my answers let me to spend almost four months in detention, not because I was a criminal, but because I had to wait to see the immigration judge.
When in detention, I was offered to sign a voluntary departure to be deported, but I refused and chose to wait in detention so I could see the judge. I felt that I had suffered enough to let myself be deported so easily so I stubbornly refused to sign. … the rest of the story you know it now…
Why did you decide to join the American army?
I had to do a lot of odd jobs to survive. But in the long run I was tired of luging my carcass everywhere and seeing that my life was going nowhere when I had ambitions and a keen desire to succeed. In addition, the American army had a lot of advantages that I cannot even begin to list here. That’s what drove me into this quest.
In your book “Chasing My Dream”, you tell your life story. Why did you decide to write this book?
It was a colleague at work who had advised me to write this book. We were in Djibouti on a mission when I was selected to become an officer. Before the ceremony, the general wanted to make a speech by referring to my service therefore asked to see my biography, which I gave him. He read my biography in front of everyone and said, “This is the example to follow: An immigrant who did not even speak English at all, in just 10 years did everything to overcome all these obstacles in order to become an officer…” ». In short, this praise and my story touched my colleague who suggested me and convinced me to share my story.
So, I decided to write this book just to encourage young people, and anyone who wants to achieve something different with their lives. I asked myself why go through all this and keep my journey for myself? I want to share my story so that it serves as an example to all those who need some motivation or inspiration. I want to tell them that you can start from scratch and succeed in your life by following certain principles of life. If I, a child from the neighborhood of Tokoin Doumassessé (Lomé), who grew up like any young man in my country without name recognition, can now work at the Pentagon in Washington, then any child who dreams and is willing to invest time and courage can also do it.
What were your feelings and reactions when the media started talking about you, your book and your story?
Surprised, because for me I am not the only Togolese or African or Immigrant who is doing what I am doing now.
Beyond this writer’s talent and all the qualities that you have, you are also a speaker and motivator. What do you propose?
My message is simple: to encourage, motivate, inspire and coach all who need it. Power is in us, and sometimes we only need someone to remind us so that we wake up.
Africa empties from its valid arms and brains. What could you tell the young Africans who in pursuit of a better life risk their lives in the Mediterranean or in the desert?
The question is why do young Africans risk everything, including their lives, to go elsewhere? I think we all know the answer. Beyond the fact that I am where I am right now, there is a sad reality behind immigration in general. My message remains that of hope and encouragement, and that soon our young brothers & sisters no longer feel this urgent desire to risk their lives for a better world somewhere far from the land of our forefathers. It’s amazing what people can do when given the opportunity. And that’s what is missing in many countries in Africa. This lack pushes many to leave at all costs. But the principles of life that I have talked about in my book can be applied all over the world to succeed.
Where can people buy your book?
Other books to be published soon?
Not in my plan right now. The future will tell us more!
Beyond this book and your status as an officer of the United States Army, do you or do you plan any actions for your home country ?
Today the world is connected 24 hours a day thanks to the Internet and social medias networks. So, the help I intend to bring to youth is to continue sharing the ideas and knowledge that I have gained throughout my journey. There is power in knowledge. An author said “life is a Game”, and like any game, there are rules. If you do not know the rules, you will always lose, not because you are a bad player but because you do not know the rules. So, I intend to share the rules of the game of life that I learned.
The change of mindset is the basis of any success in my opinion. So, I am open to conducting lectures, meetings that will go in the direction of personal development and a new way of thinking. From there, motivate and inspire by what I do.
What’s your last word?
Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” and that “failure is the mother of success.” I dreamed of a life that I desired, and I promised myself to have it or at least continue to try until the end. I asked for the Visa 4 times, before I had it, I was imprisoned for 4 months as soon as I arrived in the United States, I met other problems more complicated in my journey. I can’t remember how many times people told me “no” and that I wasn’t qualified for this or that, I have been rejected many times looking for opportunities, my life has collapsed before me many times, I could not tell you how many times I Cried in my solitude by seeking the solution to my many problems….
Despite all this, I kept hope. The phrase that always comes to mind is that “tomorrow will be another opportunity to fight if today is not going well”. And in silence I go back to work. For hours, fatigue didn’t matter to me. I took responsibility for my life and I was aware that everything I do today, every sacrifice I am making today will be what I’ll reap tomorrow. So, it was up to me to do it and nobody else. All I wanted was a better life. I looked, and I keep looking. The rest of my story is told in “Chasing my Dream”. I have only one life and I am determined to live it in my own way by pursuing my dreams… Thank you!
Thanks for sharing!