Dominick Canha can’t come to the phone right now.
The son and grandson of an Island-raised U.S. Air Force (USAF) military family is hard at work learning to be a munitions specialist, after graduating last month from USAF basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) in San Antonio, Texas.
Dominick, 21, immediately shipped out to Sheppard AFB in Texas to begin an eight-week technical school training module as a munitions systems specialist.
“He doesn’t have a cellphone with him. We don’t even hear from him much,” his dad, Jason “Jay” Canha, told the Times from his home in Virginia.
Bronze Star recipient Jay Canha and his wife Kimberly are both USAF veterans, and are well-pleased with their son’s decision to embark on a military life after graduating from high school and trying college for awhile.
Young Dominick may well have taken cues from his parents and other family members’ history of USAF service, dating back to World War II. Jay Canha retired in 2013 after 23 years of Air Force service. He now works as a military instructor for the Department of Defense. Mom Kimberly served for seven years in USAF service postings.
Dominick’s great-grandfather, Francis Coutinho, fought in World War II as a U.S. Army Air Forces (precursor of the USAF) gunner over Germany.
Mr. Canha says his own Air Force service was supported by his parents, Brenda Canha and Domingo (“Mike”) Canha (owner of D.P. Canha Appliance Repair), who still reside in Oak Bluffs.
“He led me there because of the great training and the quality of life military service provides. And it treated me right. After graduating from [Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School], I wanted to do cop work, and thought I’d get some training in the military. And I was a cop in the Air Force security forces, then spent 10 years as a special agent for the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, the FBI for the Air Force,” Mr. Canha said.
Mr. Canha entered the Air Force in 1993, a year after graduation from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
“We were overseas a lot, working in the Republic of [South] Korea, Guam, Cuba [Naval Station Guantanamo Bay], Afghanistan, and various U.S. postings, so Dominick was a military brat. He knew military life,” said Mr. Canha, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his USAF intelligence-gathering work.
“The Air Force has done well by me. Met my wife, have two great kids [including Krista Canha, 16]. We’ve seen the world. The Air Force set me up for success. The Island is my home, I love it and miss it, but it’s a big world outside the Island, so much opportunity out here,” he said.
“I would say the military is a good direction for young people: the training, education, structure, and discipline prepare you well for life. And the people you meet and train with become your family. Being an Island boy born and bred, there wasn’t opportunity [to interact] with extended family. So I reached out to my military family living all over the world.
“No one complains. You go out and do your job, knowing your family is taken care of. You serve your country, and the country takes care of you. The military provides structure, discipline, and training to tackle adversity we all encounter in life.That’s why I wanted my son to do it,” he said.