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445th AES Airman lives dream thru football, service

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Senior Airman Ian Ramirez, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, prepares for a training mission on board a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III May 29, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Carie Brown)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Senior Airman Ian Ramirez, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, prepares for a training mission on board a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III May 29, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Carie Brown)

Senior Airman Ian Ramirez, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, gets ready to catch a pass during a game between the USA Patriots and Costa Rica Bulldogs May 2, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Senior Airman Ian Ramirez, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, gets ready to catch a pass during a game between the USA Patriots and Costa Rica Bulldogs May 2, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- When Senior Airman Ian Ramirez, 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, walked into his squadron in May, he noticed a banner on the wall with his jersey number, #24, and the words, "Welcome home" and "Congratulations." 

The AE technician, who joined the unit in 2013, had just returned from Costa Rica after playing football for the USA Patriots, All-American Football Events organization. The welcoming words made more of an impact on the Airman than his team winning the game.

"Seeing that banner when I walked in made me feel so proud to be a member of this unit. I've always loved football. This has been a dream come true so far. Having the support of my squadron made it even better."

Before landing a spot on the AAFE team, Ramirez played football in college at Wright State University. He eventually played for the Dayton Sharks pro arena football team and now plays for the Ohio Crush semi-pro team. 

"I'm very passionate about football and every day I wake up and go train. I don't believe in days off because they don't get you any steps closer to your dreams."

Ramirez said 29 athletes from around the nation were recruited to play on the All-American team. He was recruited in June 2014 by a coach he played against in arena football. Ramirez played his first game with the AAFE in Puebla, Mexico. Although the team lost, it was an experience he hopes to be able to participate in again.

"When I got to Mexico for the practices leading up to the game, we met each other for the first time. We seemed to click right away as if we've been playing as a team for a long time."

Ramirez did so well that he got invited back to play against Costa Rica May 2, 2015. His team won 72-0.

The Airman's road to where he is now was an uphill climb. He grew up in a community of diversity with negativity surrounding him.

"Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, I grew up with a lot of naysayers. I was told I would never amount to anything. I was told I wasn't good enough to play football in college but I did. That I would never play for an arena football team, but I did. Now I'm playing for AAFE and am setting my sights to go pro."

Besides his passion for football, the Air Force also made a big impact on the road Ramirez's life was headed.

Ramirez remembers the day he decided to join the military.

"I joined the Air Force Reserve because I was heading down the wrong road in life when I turned 21. My dad sat me down and told me I needed to change where I was heading. I understood what he was saying but I didn't want to give up on my dream of playing football. He made me realize that I could still do both. To this day, it was the best decision I could have made. Life is busy for me but I wouldn't change it for the world."

Lt. Col. Todd Mulhorn, the operations officer for the 445 AES, recalls the day Ramirez and his father walked into the squadron for his interview.

"Ian has been a great addition to our squadron. He brings a solid understanding of team and how everybody has a job to do for successful mission outcome...and for all his talents he is a truly humble person," said Mulhorn. 

Service is a tradition in the Ramirez family. His father retired from the Army and his mother served six years as a supply sergeant before leaving the military to start a family. His siblings currently serve. His brother is in the Army and his sister, a former 445 AES member, is currently assigned at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

"My sister is the one who convinced me to join AES. I idolize both her and my brother because of the great adversity they went up against and adapted to and overcame with school. They both had to hold down two to three jobs throughout college and still managed to get their nursing degrees, thus becoming very successful RNs" Ramirez proudly stated.

For Ramirez and his family, things weren't always easy, but they endured through it.

"We were very broke growing up and had nothing. My parents may not have been rich financially back then but as far as love goes for me and siblings, they are the two richest people I've ever known. My family members are heroes to me. If you ask anyone that knows me, I have a huge amount of respect for people that overcome adversity. It's the most impressive thing you could possible do."

Ramirez shares this quote;

"Adversity builds character, never give up on your dreams. If you want something bad enough you will make it happen, no matter what."

"I want to be an inspiration to many military members and civilians both young and old. To encourage them to be great at whatever they want to do in life and to make all dreams become reality regardless of tough obstacles you may encounter in life," he concluded.