JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
In 1990, Desert storm was in full swing, “Hold On” was the No. 1 song, “Ghost” was the No. 1 movie, and Michael Jordan had yet to win an NBA championship.
Tech. Sgt. Alison Bruce-Maldonado and Master Sgt. Emelio Maldonado, both active-duty Marines at the time, remember 1990 as the year they were married.
Their 30 years of marriage and military service taught them several life lessons they hope to pass on to their daughter and fellow Airmen.
“The military taught us how to deal with difficult situations,” said Emelio, 93rd Civil Support Team healthcare non-commissioned officer in charge. “We’ve been able to pass that onto our kids because it’s not always going to be easy.”
That situation is especially true now, as Emelio and Alison respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emelio’s unit conducts refresher training on respirators and personal protective equipment for Hawaii National Guardsmen who are supporting the state with personnel and equipment.
Meanwhile, Alison provides historical documentation of the 154th Wing’s response to the pandemic and captures images asserting the Air Force’s mission readiness.
Times right now may be challenging, but the Maldonados have overcome obstacles before. In December 2011, Emilio suffered a massive heart attack.
“It caught us both by surprise,” said Alison. “I remember after I arrived at the hospital, he was just waking up from his surgery. The doctor was in his room and had asked him how he was able to drive himself to the hospital with the chest pains he was having”
“I told the doctor that I thought of Alison and knew if I didn’t make it, she would be heartbroken,” Emelio said.
The doctors told the Maldonados that Emelio was a walking miracle because most people don’t survive the type heart attack he experienced. After the accident the Maldonados changed their eating habits to be healthier.
Despite approaching 30 years of marriage, Emelio and Alison recognize the need to continuously work on their marriage. Their military service afforded the couple opportunities to enrich their marriage, such as the Stronger Bond program they recently attended to increase their communication skills and the resiliency of their marriage.
“The Stronger Bond program improves Airmen as people,” said Emelio. “Having a stronger person makes for a stronger Airman. It reminded us that we still need to go on date nights.”
Although both originally from California, they both consider Hawaii home now.
“Hawaii is where we met and we love it,” said Alison. “We are both here with no family so it makes us feel closer in our relationship.”
Alison and Emelio both separated from the Marine Corps in 1991 and 1992, respectively, and they both joined the Air National Guard shortly after. Transitioning from the Marines to the Air Force had challenges, but the Marine slogan, “improvise, adapt, and overcome,” helped them succeed.
As Alison prepares to retire, she hopes the next generation of Airmen are as eager to learn as she has been. She’s served in four different career fields in the Air Force.
“Every Airman out there has something to share, someone to teach and something to learn — on purpose,” she said.
The military presents certain challenges and having an open mind to learn can be paramount.
“Don’t believe you'll ever be too experienced to learn something new,” she continued. “Like the saying goes don't judge a book by its cover, don’t judge an Airman by their rank. We all have a story for every stripe on our sleeves.”