“Every day is a good day, full of opportunity,” said Asli Hassan Abade Parker when she recently spoke at a Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce networking lunch.
To say that Parker has lived every day to the fullest and maximized its opportunity would be an understatement. She was the first and only female Air Force pilot in Somalia, and she was the first in Africa. And that was just her early career.
Parker loves to help people and be a “voice for the voiceless,” and she has worked as a translator of seven languages. Using her background as a physician assistant and a social worker, she also volunteered to assist as needed in medical environments. Now retired from an experience that spanned 35 years at John Peter Smith Hospital, Parker and a team of volunteers feed Fort Worth’s homeless every day.
Each chapter of her story is remarkable. Parker grew up with parents who were police officers, and they lived on an Air Force base. She remembers being enamored with flight and determined to become a pilot. She spoke with the Somali president, who told her that becoming a pilot would be difficult for a woman during that time.
“When he understood I was very serious, he signed for me,” said Parker about the day she received clearance to study to be a pilot.
Parker enlisted in the Somali Air Force when she was 16, and she started training as a pilot in the 1970’s, including training school at American Airlines where she met her husband. She has lived and studied in Somalia, Italy and the United States, taking lessons from each experience. Parker speaks seven languages – English, Arabic, Italian, French, German, Russian and Somali – and is currently learning two more, Spanish and Turkish.
Though her work as an Air Force pilot took her on several missions, Parker has always been a proponent of a peaceful, prosperous world.
“God created us to love each other, respect each other…we are one community and we must work to get along with each other,” said Parker.
She has a heart for helping others, so Parker has always done what she can to aid those who need help, both abroad and in the United States. Parker is helping to build a mental hospital in Ethiopia. She also helps refugees in the area through the Somali Community Outreach and the Al Shifa Clinic, providing “culturally appropriate primary care to medically underserved populations. Indigent patients and visitors from overseas without insurance coverage also come to the clinic.”
Though Parker’s life and home country have not been without tragedy, her message is still one of optimism and hope. “It’s been painful, but God created us in the world to be tested,” said Parker, whose kindness is evident.
It is unlikely that this community volunteer will ever retire, continuing to assist others whenever she can.
“I don’t like to sit at home doing nothing,” said Parker, also a mother of four and grandmother of eight. She and her husband recently celebrated their 40th anniversary and they currently live in Fort Worth.