Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Citizen Airman honored with Medical Award

by Maj. Elizabeth Magnusson
944th Fighter Wing

11/28/2012 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- For the second time in two years a member of the 944th Fighter Wing has been awarded the Outstanding Reserve Officer Assigned to a Ground Medical Unit. This year, Maj. Heleno Souza, a physical therapist with the 944th Medical Squadron received the honor.

"Maj. Souza is a selfless Airman who is dedicated to the success of each and every one of his Airmen," said Lt. Col. Alfred Rossum, chief of Hospital Services. "He constantly demonstrates the highest standards of professionalism so it was no surprise to us that Maj. Souza was selected for the award."

Souza's civilian job is as a Wound Healing and Limb Preservation program coordinator in Tuba City, on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in Arizona.

"I was really caught by surprise when I received the news," said Souza. "When you compete with thousands of outstanding military professionals, and when you win an award of this caliber, it makes you realize that what we do as Citizen Airman makes a significant difference in people's lives. I feel honored to receive the award and to represent our 944th MDS, 944th FW and 10th Air Force members."

Souza is originally from Brazil and grew up in Rio De Janeiro. He served in the Brazilian Air Force before coming to the United States with the goal of working with Native Americans.

"Military life is in my blood, it's a tradition in my family," said Souza. "I started as enlisted member in the Brazilian Air Force at the age of 17. During medical school I finished my residency at the Air Force Hospital in Rio De Janeiro Brazil."

"In 1994 I was invited to work in the USA under work visa. After one week in the US, knowing only enough English to say yes and no, I tried to get in the U.S. Air Force," continued Souza. "However, I was told that I had to get a 'green card' first. It took me three years to go through the legal process, but I finally got my green card. I went back to a USAF recruiter and said, 'I have my green card, can I join the Air Force?' but I was turned down again. The recruiter told me I had to be a U.S. citizen to join the Air Force.

After five years of paperwork and many visits to the immigration office, Souza finally became a U.S. citizen and 18 months later received his commission in the Air Force Reserve.

"Maj. Souza is such an asset to the 944th MDS, the 944th FW and the U.S. Air Force," said Rossum. "He significantly enhanced and contributed to the development of the drug demand program here at the wing. Meanwhile, he established the Wound Care Program at Fort Benning, Ga., and at the Brazilian Navy Hospital in Salvador; actions he feels increases sister service and international relationships."

In September 2011 Souza was awarded the Honorary Knight award, Cavalry Regiment Col. Enyr Cony dos Santos (RCECS) for program development by the Rio De Janeiro Military Police in Brazil.

"I am extremely proud to be an American," said Souza. "This is the country that I choose to live and die for. I am teaching my sons about the sacrifice that our prior generations made for all of us to be here today. I am grooming my children to continue my legacy in the USAF. I want them to be ready to answer our nation's call, to be proud of our heritage, to be wingmen, leaders, and warriors; to be American Airmen."

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