Hometown Hero: Fanni Xie paves her way as a first-generation immigrant and veteran

Hometown Heroes

Green Bay, Wis. (WFRV) – A first-generation immigrant from China, Fanni Xie came to the U.S. for her education; But she got much more than she bargained for.

“My Mom’s first job was a translator so she traveled around the world when I was little,” Xie recalled. We were thinking maybe Western style education (would be) simple for me, so that’s why eventually after high school I came to America for college,” she said.

Always the artistic type, Xie started as a graphic design major when she enrolled at Troy University in Alabama and she knew college would be expensive.

That’s when a friend made a suggestion; Join the Army reserves, a low-commitment way to help pay for school.

“When I signed up (for the Army), there was a list of jobs that I could choose from and there was one called a Behavioral Health Specialist and I didn’t know what it was, but I thought that might be a job that I can learn from,” said Xie.

Xie spent the next year training, learning things like psychological evaluation and PTSD treatment, assisting licensed providers with treating her fellow soldiers.

But everything was about to change; Xie and the 113th Combat Stress Control unit were deploying to Afghanistan.

“The first day I went to my reserve unit, the commander locked us in a room, closed the curtains, took our phones and said, ‘You guys are deploying,'” Xie recalled. “Yeah, so much for reserve soldiers two times a month right?” she said.

It was during that year in Afghanistan in 2011, supporting her fellow soldiers, when Xie discovered just how passionate she really was about the human mind. 

“You can see after session to session after you talk to (the soldiers), they are getting better, they’re happier,” Xie said. “They feel that there is someone who can really help them, to understand them. In fact, I learned so much more in that one year than many years in school,” she said.

So, she decided to make it her career.

“That encouraged me even more to get into the field, because right now I’m in the Social Work program at University of Wisconsin Green Bay and I hope to become a clinical social worker and help other veterans and soldiers,” said Xie.

Before the pandemic, Xie would probably be spending most of her time at the Veteran’s Lounge on the UWGB campus, where she interns for Veteran’s Services, providing counseling and a listening ear for veteran students.

Now, that’s taken more of a shift to virtual, but Xie is still doing what she loves.

“I know I’ve faced a lot of difficulties and road blocks in my life, so I wish I can be the person to be in somebody’s life to give them guidance when they’re in the crossroads, they don’t know where to go,” said Xie.

“Maybe I can tell them about my experience and tell them everything will get better and where to get help and where the resources are and they’re not alone,” she said.

Xie is also working with the Fox Valley Technical College through a grant program to start her own small business. She hopes to open a Bubble Tea shop, promoting Asian pop culture and diversity within the Fox Valley community.

Have someone you’d like to nominate for Hometown Hero? Let us know below!

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