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An American family

Soldiers have unique marriage

Nasima Hassai, Capt. Suraya Bair, baby Melia and Maj. Kyle Bair are a unique American family. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The Bair family defines what it is to be an American family.

He is an American who was raised in the Christian faith. His mother-in-law is a Muslim woman who fled Afghanistan in 1979 when the Russians invaded her country. His wife is a new mother, a Muslim and the child of that parent.

Completing the family is a newborn daughter, a blend of both parents' cultures in a figurative and literal sense.

They are Americans.

Nasima Hassai listens well.  Her quietude belies her intelligence and her quick wit.  She speaks five languages, and she earned a degree in chemical engineering.  She smiles a lot.

"She is the first woman in Afghanistan to become a chemical petroleum engineer," her son-in-law, Maj. Kyle Bair, said proudly. "She did this in Afghanistan; that is quite an accomplishment."

After fleeing her country, Nasima found herself in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Italy before finally arriving in the U.S. in 1982.  

It had been a tough journey.

"I came here with no money," she said.  "I first worked in a shoe store; I learned about computers, and I polished my English."

She later married her fiancé, who had also fled Afghanistan, and settled in Virginia.

Not long after, Nasima went to work for the U.S. Patent Office, and she and her husband volunteered in the community to help Afghanistan.   

"I enjoy the freedoms here in America; there is opportunity here; there is equality before the law," she added.

The sense of volunteering for something greater than oneself influenced her daughter, Capt. Suraya Bair.

"I saw what my mother did, and it became my calling," commented the logistician, who is assigned to the 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Suraya attended George Mason University and majored in journalism.  She earned her commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.

"I think it is amazing that as a first-generation American, she chose to serve her country," wrote Lt. Col. Michael LaBrecque, commander, 308th Brigade Support Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, in an email.

While in uniform and on duty, Suraya describes herself as focused, determined and all about completing the mission.

"I am a logistician, and I am here to help the warfighters complete their missions," she said.

When not on duty, she enjoys yoga, juicing and spiritual pursuits.

"I'm a bit unconventional, a bit of a hipster," she allowed with a smile.

As she spoke, her newborn daughter, Melia, slept peacefully.

Taking in the quiet scene was Maj. Ken Bair, a native of Ohio with a grin almost as large as his birth state.

He attended Mount Union College, majored in early childhood education, completed his ROTC training at Kent State University and was commissioned in 2003 by his father, a Vietnam veteran.

"I had no thought of joining the Army when I started college," he explained.  "My roommate talked me into it; I was accepted and received a scholarship."

The Army couldn't be happier.

"He served as my support operations officer and is currently my executive officer," continued LaBrecque.

Possessed of a structured approach to the challenges he faces, Kyle's approach to his mission is fair and balanced.

"He is a very good arbitrator," his wife pointed out.

LaBrecque went further.

"He is an amazing leader and officer who inspires those around him to greater heights."

The major just smiled as his wife and mother-in-law beamed.

Melia stirred.

That prompted a comment about how, with their divergent college educations, they would raise their daughter.

With his education in early childhood, Kyle will be the "go to" parent for Melia's first decade.  After that, Mom will play an increasing role.

"She gets her during her teens," he added with a smile.

Suraya Bair reached down and picked up her daughter; Maj. Bair smiled.

"Don't forget where you came from," commented Nasima. "I am proud of my daughter and son-in-law," she concluded. "I am proud of all those who serve in the Army."

Spoken like an American.

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