YUMA, Ariz. - In honor of Veterans Day, all this week we are profiling different veterans from all walks of life that have made their way to the Desert Southwest.
We spoke with one woman who served in the Navy and traveled all around the world, but considers Yuma home. News 11 has the exclusive story as a part of our series, Military Week.
Born in Okinawa, Japan, 28-year-old Ashley Aitken was born and raised in a military family. Having a father who served in the Marine Corps for 22 years, they made their way to Yuma in August of 1995. Her father had just finished a tour in Quantico.
Being raised in a military family, the knowledge of what the military represented was always there, but it wasn't until one very major event that Ashley decided to follow her families path and take the necessary steps to serve her country.
She remembers how the Yuma community came together and became one.
"At that time, Yuma became not just a city, it became a family. Your neighbors, your classmates, your peers, your friends, someone was spending time with you because their parents were off fighting this war," Aitken said.
Right out of High School, Ashley applied to the Naval Academy. A rigorous process of testing and interviews, she was always on the go, but eventually got her Bachelors in engineering in 2012. Her first position was as a Surface Warfare Officer.
During her time, Ashley did get injured and due to this was unable to go on deployment, but notes that if the injury had never happened, her heart would very much still be devoted to serving.
"I would still be in the military. Knowing what the military provides for you as a person, what that group does for the country, just how it gets bigger and bigger. I would definitely still be in," Aitken said.
Due to the injury, she traveled cross-country back to Yuma with her father and landed a teaching position from one of her childhood mentors.
"My Spanish high school teacher, Mr. Frank Nunez was now an administrator at Yuma High. So my mom called me one night and said, what are you doing? I go, absolutely nothing. Get dressed, come down to Yuma High, someone wants to talk to you." Not too long after that she became a math teacher at the high school, having been there for almost two years. Ashley shares that even though her days are filled with school, being in a military town like Yuma enables her to always feel that military presence.
"To be surrounded by the people, who selflessly said, I want to serve this country. And you'll see Vietnam vets, world war two vets, it just...It does something to you. To me that's what it is to be an American, a patriot...to feel that. That connection to another human-being that did something for you and you've never met them before."
Military Week continues tomorrow as we meet with a Vietnam veteran. Stay Tuned for the story in the 6pm evening edition on KYMA.