Airman sacrifices AF retirement for daughter's WNBA dream

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi
  • 65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
In a room packed with about 50 well-wishers, a dream of about 11 years became a reality for a young American shortly after her 18th birthday.

Cordia Harvatin signed a contract that put her among the women with a shot at a future in the U.S. Women's National Basketball Association.

Sitting between her mom, April, and her coach, she sealed the deal Nov. 5 to play for Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Texas. A round of applause and flashes of photos followed. Cordia looked around with a joyous smile, realizing her future was about to change.

"I feel very loved," she said. "It's really nice. College ball has always been my dream."

She added that at first, she had thought of joining the Air Force had she not received a scholarship.

Why would she think of joining an elite team of servicemembers, who are called Airmen? Another significant person in her life, her father, Master Sgt. David Harvatin, serves in the Air Force.

Unfortunately, Sergeant Harvatin, who often sacrifices sleepless nights to mentor Cordia, was not at the colorful ceremony.

Sergeant Harvatin volunteered for 15-month unaccompanied assignment to Lajes Field without his family to help shape his daughter's future. He is now assigned to the 65th Communications Squadron.

"I made the sacrifice of leaving my family at Lackland to take this assignment, rather than retire so that my daughter could finish her high school senior year and get picked up for college basketball," said Sergeant Harvatin. "It all paid off. They offered her a four-year scholarship, room and board, paid with a $1,500 a month allowance."

According to the sergeant, Cordia's goals were to play basketball, go to college and eventually play in the WNBA. Cordia grew up with dreams of playing in the WNBA since she was 7, and her parents have always supported and encouraged her. April and her husband decided that keeping Cordia in San Antonio would help her reach these goals.

Sergeant Harvatin had an option to retire to be with his family, but he chose to stay in the Air Force so his daughter could attend the Department of Defense Dependents School.

Had Sergeant Harvatin retired, it would mean pulling Cordia out of her school, where she was ranked the No. 1 player in San Antonio, fourth in Texas, and among the top best 43 "hoops" shooters in the entire United States.

Also, Cordia would have been transferred to another district, which meant her games stats, tracking, mechanism of scores and rankings in the city and state would have been discounted because they were attached to the school she was attending before.

During her senior year, she had 15 colleges scouting her to play on their basketball team. She was described as the secret weapon coming off the bench as a freshman and sophomore.

After practicing with Southwestern Assemblies of God in August, the coach wanted to sign her into the team immediately, said Sergeant Harvatin. At that time, she did not meet the age requirement since she turned 18 in October.

Following her birthday, she delivered her signature to SAGU, which was her first choice due to its deep root in God,  said Cordia.

Her opinion was further echoed by her dad when he said spiritual fitness backs his daughter's choice of college, and it also influences her total success.

"She's always been established in churches, and she works very hard in the church," Sergeant Harvatin said. "We've always had good Bible studies, where we make them (our children) do inner reflections to see whether they are in alignment with the word of God."

Furthermore, Sergeant Harvatin said once parents demonstrate and give their children that foundation, "they don't stray too far."

"We have not had a lot of problems with her because of her spiritual foundation that we've laid early," added the sergeant, who is also a pastor.

"We are very Christian-based, so it was a bonus that the university she'll be attending is Christian-based as well," Sergeant Harvatin said. "It's sad that I cannot be there for her senior year, but on the same token, I am very proud of her achievement. It's very exhilarating to see her blossom into the dynamite player that she's become."

Apart from the text message he received when his daughter signed up, the only way he could see his family was through social media sites like Skype and Facebook. The technology-savvy sergeant said he also gets to communicate with them on a Google phone that calls directly to the United States from the Azores, Portugal.

The sergeant will depart Lajes for Career Assistance Advisor training by August. He will be on a temporarily assignment in San Antonio, Texas, where he hopes to reunite with his family again after months of being away from home.