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Air Force Reserve

‘Lost boy’ finds new home on McChord

Airman glad to serve after tragic boyhood

446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Published: 03:43PM November 26th, 2013
‘Lost boy’ finds new home on McChord

Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle

“I feel like I made the right decision to be (in the Reserve) back to this great country,” said Airman 1st Class Dominic Luka.

Most U.S. teenagers who rebel against their parents share a sibling rivalry, complain about their living conditions or whine about “slow” Internet connections on their smartphones haven’t met Dominic Luka.

In the late 1990s, he lost his father in the civil war between the central Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Then he lost two of his brothers, a sister, and stepmother due to illness. Luka was 11 when these tragedies struck.

Las Vegas odds makers couldn’t have predicted this “Lost Boy” of the Sudan would end up enlisting into the Air Force Reserve.

“I feel like I made the right decision to be (in the Reserve), learning a lot of different things every time — giving back to this great country — great nation,” Luka, now 28, said. “I always wanted to do something in the service.”

The Airman first class only recently raised his right hand after he and his wife, Laura, moved to Oregon in 2012 — but circumstances took Luka from his native land to a new country.

An altar boy during the civil war, Luka was one of thousands known as the Sudan Lost Boys evacuated to a Kenyan refugee camp he called home in 1997.

A German nun, Sister Louise, became the Lost Boys’ caregiver. One day, she gave the boys the chance of a lifetime — the chance to “live.” She had them write letters to a variety of embassies, requesting the opportunity visit the countries in hopes of escaping the hopeless lives refugees.

“I got a call from the U.S. Embassy, and passed my interviews,” Luka said. “In May 2001, I came to the U.S.”

Luka’s first step into American society was in New York City. He admitted the U.S. was strange and intimidating for him.

“I got to the U.S. and was culture shocked,” Luka said. “Everything was different. I had a hard time adjusting to life in the U.S.”

But before long, Luka found a place he could call home and a married couple who became family.

“The Rogers family picked me up as a foster child when I was 16,” Luka said. “They’re a great family and I had a great time living with them. They provided help and resources for helping me through high school and college.”

Luka began his American education as a high-school freshman. Due to his age, he skipped 10th grade and became a junior the following year. He said he had a lot on his plate with school work, varsity cross-country and track. But after catching up with his academic work and excelling in sports, the star runner’s work and training paid off, earning him a full scholarship to run at Norfolk State University, Va.

Luka completed the next race by earning a bachelor’s degree in management information systems and returned to his new family in New York.

“I graduated from college, and went back to New York, and helped my foster parents in (real estate) while I looked for a job.”

On a family vacation in Key West, Fla.,Luka met Laura for the first time. They hit it off, and kept in touch when he was in New York, he said.

“I kinda felt like we knew each other for a long time,” Luka said.

After visiting each other in New York and Key West, they dropped in on Laura’s family in California and got engaged.

Before they broke out the champagne, the newlyweds traveled to Oregon, where Laura went to school. He said at that point, he chose a career in the military. He said the Air Force seemed like the right choice.

Luka may be leaving a vapor trail, but hasn’t forgotten about the people who helped him get a running start. He was able to reconnect with the rest of his African family in 2005, but kept his New York parents informed about his life.

He is attending Air Force Basic Military Training at Joint Base Lackland, Texas. When he completes personnel training at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. in March 2014, he’ll start a new long-distance event — running with the 446th Force Support Squadron.