Major finds ‘new start’ with military

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leticia Hopkins
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Starting a new is a concept often thought of at the start of a new year. But if the change involved moving to a new country and learning another language and way of life; would you still be interested? Would you be willing to die for those and others who made it possible?

One 23rd Medical Group pharmacist not only said yes, but would do it all over again, because he is grateful to America, the country that gave him a "new start" as a teenager.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Maj. Gabriel Florit, who is of Cuban, French, Spanish and Italian descent, was part of a Cuban migration to the United States in the 1980s.

The immigration began after President Jimmy Carter made a pact to bring Cuban political prisoners to the United States, said Major Florit.

Since his stepfather was a political prisoner, he and his family moved to Miami, when the major was 14.

"I started working when I got here," said Major Florit. "I was working, going to school and learning English. It was hard but I adapted. I was a kid."

Upon arriving in his new environment, Major Florit had to adapt to more than a new surrounding. He had to start all over. He had to learn a new way of life and most importantly, a new language.

"It was completely different," said the major. "I didn't even know the language. It was a good different though; it was exciting."

Despite the language barrier, Major Florit excelled academically. He later earned an academic scholarship to Miami-Dade Community College.

But after his first year at the local community college, he left to join the Army. Major Florit served as a medic and pharmacy technician for three years and achieved the rank of specialist.

In 1989, he separated and went back to school and earned a General Associate of Arts degree. He then attended the University of Florida's pharmacy program. As he worked to finish his pharmacy degree, Major Florit found himself wanting to go back into the military.

In 1993, instead of the Army, he joined the Navy on a medical professional scholarship. He stayed in the Navy for six years and separated at the rank of lieutenant.

But Major Florit didn't sever all ties with the military. In 2000, he went to work at a veteran's administration clinic; it was then he realized serving in the military was what he really wanted to do.

"I came to my senses and thought, 'What am I doing here?'" said Major Florit. "I love the military. I went to my supervisor and told her I want to go back (into the military)."

The first phone number Major Florit came across when looking to rejoin was for an Air Force recruiter.

Major Florit's first day as an Air Force officer was one he won't forget. He said he remembered driving to MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and signing into the base as 9/11 occurred.

The major has been stationed here since August 2004 and has currently served a total of 15 years in the military. He said he will continue to serve until the day the Air Force no longer allows him to do so.

"I am definitely proud of my service," said Major Florit, a husband and father of four. "I would recommend it to anybody, especially immigrants. They came to this country, they should help defend it."

Major Florit loves military life so much that he has sacrificed an opportunity of returning to his native country of Cuba in order to serve.

"I can't go back to Cuba," said Major Florit. "It bothers me because I haven't seen some of my family in 26 years, but (at least my immediate) family still lives in Miami."