Dramatic Photo Only Hints at the Story Behind It Dramatic Photo Only Hints at the Story Behind It

A photo of Alix Idrache at his graduation from West Point

(Staff Sgt. Vito T. Bryant, U.S. Army)

As his photo spread across social media, a West Point cadet's inspiring story as a Haitian immigrant became known.

"No greater feeling than that of accomplishment!" said West Point's Facebook post showing Alix Idrache overcome with emotion at his graduation this month. Idrache is one of 953 cadets—about 78 percent of the entering class—who made it to commencement, and among 41 "best of the best" named to a leadership position among the corps.

But that day, he had more than accomplishment on his mind. He was thinking about where he'd started, and where he was headed. After the arresting image got more than 30,000 likes and hundreds of comments on Facebook, Idrache shared his story.

"I am from Haiti and never did I imagine that such honor would be one day bestowed on me," Idrache wrote in an Instagram comment thanking people for their reactions to the picture. "Shortly after leave, I will report to [Fort Rucker, Alabama] to start flight school. Knowing that one day I will be a pilot is humbling beyond words.

Alix Idrache celebrates
"I was overwhelmed with emotions," Alix Idrache wrote of graduating from West Point seven years after he came to the U.S. from Haiti.
(John Pellino, U.S. Army)

"I could not help but be flooded with emotions knowing that I will be leading these men and women who are willing to give their all to preserve what we value as the American way of life. To me, that is the greatest honor."

Idrache grew up in Port au Prince, where he saw U.S. military performing humanitarian missions and was fascinated by the troops' hardware and technology, according to a U.S. Army profile. But becoming one of those service members one day? That had seemed out of reach.

"People where I'm from don't grow up to be pilots, right? Like they don't dream of flying a helicopter, that's not something you do," Idrache said in the Army interview. "You don't just say I'm going to be a pilot and make it happen. There're no aviation, there're no helicopters, no flight schools. There're none of that."

Idrache's father, who had dropped out of school at 14 to provide for his own family, came to the U.S. to build a better life, and Alix joined him in 2009. He signed up for the National Guard, where his platoon leader and others encouraged his application to West Point. He was accepted and enrolled in 2012.

Having learned to press on even under tough circumstances, Idrache is helping others to do the same.

"Alix, without you as my PSG [platoon sergeant], I know I would've quit during Beast [basic training]," wrote a fellow cadet on Facebook. "You've been a role model to me throughout the past two years and there's no doubt in my mind you will continue to be one. Thank you for everything and congratulations!"