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Academy cadets help send international cadet home for holidays

Cadets 4th Class Chanyuthea Nou and Zachary Olson appear on terrazzo at the Air Force Academy, Colo., Dec. 12, 2019. Olson and his squad mates helped raised more than $4,500 to send Nou home to Cambodia for the holidays.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

Cadets 4th Class Chanyuthea Nou and Zachary Olson appear on terrazzo at the Air Force Academy, Colo., Dec. 12, 2019. Olson and his squad mates helped raised more than $4,500 to send Nou home to Cambodia for the holidays. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The distance between Colorado and Cambodia is more than 8,000 miles – a lot farther than the average college student travels to get home for winter break.

When Cadet 4th Class Chanyuthea Nou earned a spot in the international cadet program at the Air Force Academy, he understood the exorbitant airfare likely meant he would be away from his family for four straight years.

“I had a passion to pursue – becoming a successful aeronautical engineer and an officer of good character,” he said.

Nou arrived at the Academy earlier this summer with the rest of the Class of 2023. He quickly formed bonds with his U.S. counterparts during the basic training phase and the first academic semester.

“Cadet Nou is truly a down-to-earth individual who puts a smile on everyone's face,” said Cadet 4th Class Zachary Olson. “We wanted to show him how much everyone in our squadron loves him so we decided to raise money to send him home for Christmas.”

Several members of his squadron banded together and raised money for Nou’s airfare. His friends raised more than $4,500 in nine days with the aid of a crowdfunding app.

“It means a lot to me that my squad mates did this for me,” Nou said. “I’m thankful for their kindness and their demonstration of service before self.”

Nou said he has enjoyed his time at the Academy but looks forward to his mother’s cooking and receiving his family’s blessings. He will also spend time with his “best friend,” his one-year-old dog.

There are 55 international cadets studying at the Academy representing countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.