Watching cartoons on Saturday morning is an American pastime almost every adult can trace back to their childhood, feigning nostalgia.
This was no different for Senior Airman Shokhrukh Dadajanov, 1st Air Force Special Operations Aircraft Warfare Center command support staff. The only difference was, he had no clue what the cartoons were saying.
Dadajanov, affectionately nicknamed ‘Shok’ by American friends due the difficult pronunciation of his first name, was 11 years old when his mother moved him from his hometown in Andijan, Uzbekistan, to Omaha, Nebraska.
His older sister earned a full scholarship from Creighton University in Omaha and paid their mother airfare for her and him to visit. Little did Dadajanov know, Omaha would become his new home.
“[Andijan] was a poor, poverty-stricken place where technology was very far behind the modern standard, and you could definitely describe it as a third-world country” said Dadajanov. “My mom told me we were going to visit my sister and we never went back.”
Leaving behind family, friends and the only home they knew, Dadajanov and his mother looked for better opportunities and a new life.
Dadajanov didn’t know a word of English upon arriving in the United States, and the culture shock took him by surprise.
“Everything was so different,” said Dadajanov. “The difference of cars, the buildings and the technology was shocking. I didn’t know the customs or the language, and it took a toll on me.”
His comfort came from American cartoons. At first, nothing made sense but he slowly picked out pieces of English and began to learn.
Unfortunately, the children in middle school weren’t as understanding during the learning process.
“I was ridiculed by the rest of the kids when I arrived here,” said Dadajanov. “They would pick on me for being a foreigner, for speaking strangely, and I couldn’t communicate this to the teacher of the classes. It was so frustrating and it got me in a lot of trouble.”
As time went on, cartoons accompanied with English as a Second Language courses at school along with a lot of help from his sister, Dadajanov spoke fluent English in less than two years.
During his middle school years, his mother claimed asylum status in the U.S. and then obtained a citizenship for her and her son.
After Dadajanov graduated high school, he enrolled at University of Omaha and started a job at Home Depot. But, he aspired to something more.
His stepfather, Master Sgt. Diogenes Chamberland, was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, and moved their family. Chamberland encouraged Dadajanov to join the Air Force.
“I didn’t see myself going far at Home Depot and that’s when I sat down with my stepdad and he told me all of the things the Air Force provided me to include money to finish my education,” said Dadajanov.
Inspired by his stepfather’s words, Dadajanov made the decision to enlist at Boston’s Military Entrance Processing Center in April 2012 as a personnel specialist.
Since Dadajanov’s enlistment, he volunteered for the base honor guard, made below-the-zone senior airman and received a line number for staff sergeant on his first attempt.
He met and married his wife in 2011, who blessed him with a now 3-year-old son, Solomon, and a 4-month-old daughter, Leahna.
A common topic of conversation between service members starts with “Where are you from?” Whenever asked this question, Dadajanov claims Omaha and credits the United States with the opportunities that allowed his family to thrive.
“I call the U.S.A. my country because all the things I have accomplished here, I would have never been able to in Uzbekistan. It’s been a huge journey for me and my family,” said Dadajanov. “It’s my honor to wear this uniform and serve and give back. The opportunities I’ve been given here, I hold dear in my heart.”