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Reservists build a bridge of service around the world

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jasmine Czajka
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

TINKER AFB, Ok. – Tucked away in a rural town of Nigeria, lies a small mission hospital where a young Ifiok Idem and Emem Idem worked together as local doctors. One day, someone was in dire need of surgery and a blood transfusion, yet there was not enough blood in the blood bank.

However, the lack of necessary resources did not stop the Idems from trying to save this person’s life.

Ifiok began the surgery, while Emem made her way to the blood donation center to donate her own blood for this patient. Emem soon delivered her fresh donation to be used in the operation room. Emem then continued the surgery for Ifiok while he went and donated his blood, and returned with it, as well. Both doctors took turns with this process, until finally, the patient’s life was saved. This selfless act on both doctors’ part was not considered heroic in their eyes, but simply a necessary contribution to their proclaimed life purpose: service to others.

The Idems’ goal of a life of service led them to do many things in life. And in their hopes to inspire and give back to those who have given to them, Ifiok and Emem eventually became U.S. citizens, and then raised their right hands in an oath to join the U.S. Air Force.

“We have been doctors, in the United States alone, for 12 years, and for 11 years in Nigeria before that,” disclosed Maj. Ifiok Idem, a 507th Medical Squadron flight surgeon. “We’ve always, always been people of service, and it’s never been about what is in it for us.”

Both Ifiok and his wife, Maj. Emem Idem, a 507th MDS physician and flight surgeon, started their careers as doctors in their home country, Nigeria. Ifiok added that the happiest he and Emem have ever been in their medical careers was when they were working for almost no money at the mission hospital in Nigeria. They affirmed that seeing the positive impact they had on their patients’ lives is the most rewarding thing to them.

“There’s something about service that just shows you who you are,” mentioned Emem. “We always find ourselves drawn to helping the underprivileged, the vulnerable, the poor, the medically underserved, etc., and the only effective way to make a difference for them, and in life, is to serve.”

Emem further stated how serving gives her joy and fulfillment, and becoming part of the U.S. Air Force was all about continuing her service. Both individuals felt they had been so blessed by this country, and joining its military seemed to be the logical next step for them after a nine-year journey to finally become U.S. citizens.

Additionally, Emem conveyed that she and her husband have been so blessed by God for their opportunities in the United States. The Idems revealed that they are not only able to send money home to not only help their families, but also annually offer financial aid to multiple families and individuals from their home towns in Nigeria that they feel need the assistance to grow in those communities.

“Our gratitude comes from being able to have career fulfillment, financial fulfillment, personal development fulfillment, family fulfillment, and financial ability to change lives tremendously,” declared Ifiok, as he reflected on his experiences since becoming a U.S. citizen. “This is a very special country with a very special mission, and there is none like it in all of the world. We are very proud to be American citizens now.”

Ifiok maintained that the only way he and his wife Emem were able to help so many people as well as continue providing for their families back home, is due to their fortunate opportunities afforded to them by being in the United States.

Furthermore, both Ifiok and Emem emphasized how they believe the most noble thing a person can do is serve others, as well as the importance of meeting people from other cultures, not only to experience their culture, but to understand without judgment.

“We came into the military to look for how we can build peace, build love, inspire, and comfort people whether they are in the military or not,” expressed Ifiok. “If we can be peacemakers between Nigeria and the United States through the military, then we can build a bridge, and it's not going to stop with the Air Force. We want to spread that love and peace around the world."