Violence and danger lurk around every corner in a country torn apart by civil war. Parents and children attempt to flee the country just to survive. Everyone isn’t lucky enough to escape, but Cadet Than Than Tway and her family did. In 2008 they were granted political asylum in the United States and have been able to live here ever since.
Tway and her parents are a part of small ethnic group called Karen (/kəˈrɛn/). The Karen have their own language and culture. They are also a part of the Karen Conflict described as one of the world’s “longest running civil wars.” The war has been going on since 1949.
Tway was born in Myanmar, but she grew up in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand in Burma. Tway and her family lived there for about 11 years. In 2008, with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an organization that helps refugees through the process of seeking asylum, Tway’s family sought political asylum in the United States.
“They took a picture of each family and then they worked with them through the process and see which family needed more help to come to the United States,” Tway said. “So my parents applied for that and we got interviewed.”
When Tway got to the U.S., she noticed a lot of differences between here and Thailand. The buildings were different, water and electricity were commonplace and her childhood friends weren’t here. One change that she adjusted to rather quickly is learning English.
“I think I learned English very fast, within my first year, and I became a translator for other refugees that came too,” Tway said.
Aside from English, Tway also speaks Burmese and Karen. She plans to use these and all the other skills she’s mastered to eventually go back to Thailand and help other refugees.
Coming to America was a difficult transition for Tway. There were a lot of changes that she had to quickly adjust to. However, the people that helped her when she got here made all the difference.
“When I first came to the United States, the first people that helped me through were veterans,” Tway said. “My English teacher, my mentor and my coaches were all veterans and I still keep in touch with every single one of them and they’re the reason why I joined [the Army].”
Ten years after arriving in the United States, Tway enlisted in the Army National Guard as Military Police. She completed her basic and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. During this time she was in college, but she took a year off to complete her preliminary Army training. When she returned to school Tway said she knew she needed help, so she joined Army ROTC and got contracted.
As she celebrates her three year anniversary in the National Guard Tway prepares to complete Advanced Camp at Cadet Summer Training. Tway attends D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, but she is a part of the ROTC program offered by Canisius College, also in Buffalo. Tway is majoring in both psychology and sociology. She also just recently got accepted into a two year radiation therapy program. When she commissions she wants to branch medical service.
“I just want to help people…I thought having a radiation therapy job and then med service that kind of correlates with each other,” Tway said.