LIFESTYLE

Our American Dream: 5th Gen. Mexican-American, 3rd Gen. Army

In all fields of endeavor, across the United States, Latinos are working to uphold their place in American society. Fox News Latino is proud to present "Our American Dream" – a series of snapshots and profiles of Latino success stories.

At 38 years old, Ann Marie Loera took a chance on happiness, and made the decision that would change her life forever.

The divorced mother of four with four grandchildren, who was raised in a military family, decided to pursue her dream of joining the military.

“My family was shocked when I told them I wanted to serve,” Spc. Loera said. “It is part of the pride and tradition my family has for serving our country.”

Loera's family is fifth-generation Mexican-American and she is a third-generation service member. Her grandfather served in the Army, so did her father. Both her brothers and her twin sister serve in the Navy.

Two years ago, the 5th and 6th grade teacher and former probation officer, decided to leave the classroom and join the Army. She said it was worth the tradeoff for doing what she loves.

Leora’s hardest struggle is being away from her kids, ages 21 to 7. But she said her support for them is unshakeable.

She is based out of Fort Hood, Texas, but drives five hours every weekend to be with her family in Kingsville. She relies on her kids to take care of the home, especially her oldest daughter, who is engaged.

“My daughter stepping into my shoes and taking care of her siblings has meant more to me than can be imagined,” she said. “She has shown her loyalty to our family by holding down the home front while I am gone.”

Leora said she looks forward to her trips home so she can prepare her kids a home-cooked meal.

“It’s all about making fresh handmade tortillas and having a long conversation about everything at the dinner table.”

Loera’s experience shows there is no timetable for pursuing your dreams. In Leora’s eyes, no matter what age or circumstance, everyone deserves the chance to go for what makes them happy.

“People need to conquer that initial fear and just do it,” she says. “The risk is worth it, you just need to take that chance.”

Loera began her service as a training assistant in Baghdad, where she was responsible for assisting with scheduling and facilitating educational services for their Soldiers. She returned from Iraq in November.

“There were times that were difficult -- the constant (sound) of mortars,” Lorea said. “The way the people live is amazing. I don’t know how they do it, the struggles…a pound of ground meat is like $13. Surviving over there is difficult. “

Loera said the Army has changed her life. And she said she will continue to serve her family, and serve her country, as long as she is physically able.

“As long as the Army will have me, I will serve until I am 60,” she said. “They have been very good to me.”If you know someone who should be featured in the Our American Dream series email us at editorial@foxnewslatino.com.

Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). Click here for more information on Bryan Llenas. Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.