Proud to be American, an immigrant gives back
Ardi Pribadi became a U.S. citizen one month before terrorists attacked his new homeland. The sacrifices of American troops inspired him to join the Air Force.
How 6 local lives changed after 9/11
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The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, caused profound shock, horror, fear, anger and sorrow for Americans — and for some, lasting change. Six Puget Sound-area residents tell us how the events of that day played out in their lives.
Ardi Pribadi enjoys being a dentist. It's the career he'd been planning since his youth.
He's also proud to be a major in the Air Force Reserve, though that came about through decisions he made much more recently, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"It was like I had to fulfill a calling," said Pribadi, who lives in Snohomish.
Pribadi, 32, was 3 years old when his family came to the United States from Indonesia to escape the discrimination against Chinese Indonesians by that country's Muslim majority.
"We came to this country for the same reason many immigrants did," he said. "My parents wanted a better life for their children."
But because of his Asian background, Pribadi said, he felt "like a foreigner in a familiar land," even after he became a naturalized citizen in 2001 — one month before the 9/11 attacks.
The terrorist attacks, which occurred during Pribadi's senior year at the University of Washington, triggered a strong realization that the country under attack was his country. "The image of those burning towers stuck with me, big time," said Pribadi.
Even so, several years would pass before those feelings prompted Pribadi, after graduating from dental school, to sign up for a residency at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Los Angeles to help those who had served their country.
Working there, Pribadi saw patients who had made great personal sacrifice, including a teenage Navy medical corpsman with severe facial injuries suffered in Iraq.
"I felt an enormous amount of guilt that these men and women, who had much less, gave so much more," he recalls. In 2006, he enlisted in the Air Force, serving in the U.S. and Japan, and transitioned into the reserves after leaving active duty last year.
Pribadi, who has a wife and 1-year-old daughter, opened his dental practice in Arlington last October.
He views his military service as partial repayment of a debt.
"I had not truly accepted my citizenship as being an American, nor been able to appropriately thank this country for embracing me and providing me the freedom I would not have felt elsewhere."
— Jack Broom, Seattle Times staff reporter
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