• August 20, 2014

From homeless immigrant to officer

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 4:30 am

Born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1976, 2nd Lt. Jung Soon Park, always dreamed of becoming “a somebody in life.”

Now a platoon leader for Bravo Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Park’s journey to America was filled with experience he now knows made him stronger.

“I was on my second year of college when I received orders to join the Republic of Korea’s Army,” Park said. “It was heart breaking knowing I had to stop my education, but it was also rewarding knowing that I was serving my country.”

But the break cooled Park’s passion for education.

After completing his service, Park decided to travel to the U.S. instead of returning to college. He left with a translation book to aid him with his limited English, $500 and a dream for a better life.

Upon arriving in Maryland he decided to buy a Greyhound bus ticket that would give him passage to 30 states in 45 days. Park searched for months but was denied employment due to his immigration status. This drove him to sleep at bus terminals, in city parks and occasionally in homeless shelters across the country.

Eventually someone hired him and Park used his first earned money to buy clothes so he could attend a Korean church he found on his ventures. It was at this church he met a pianist named Sung Min Yoon, the woman who would eventually become Park’s wife.

“I noticed that Jung Soon was smart, with a positive attitude and saw life in a very different perspective,” Yoon said. “He always saw the positive side of the negative.”

Park’s wife encouraged him to apply for his permanent resident paperwork and later they jointly decided that Park joining the United States Army could benefit their newly formed family.

In June 2008 Park enlisted and attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Knox, Ky. Afterward, he attended Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Va., and became a shower, laundry and textile repairer specialist.

Upon arrival to their first duty station at Fort Bragg, N.C., he immediately fell back into pursuing his education by attending college classes on nights and weekends.

Park said he worked hard on exceeding the minimum standards for everything from physical training tests to correspondence courses to education.

He also applied for and received his citizenship status during this period. Park said “quit” was not in his vocabulary. This positive mental attitude led to his career advancements.

In 2010, he completed his Bachelor of Science in computer information technology, became a noncommissioned officer in 2012, and almost a month after was accepted into the Officer Candidate Course where, upon completion, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps.

Park said he is thankful to serve the nation that afforded him these opportunities and plans to continue “to go above and beyond when it (comes) to following orders and doing the right thing in the absence of orders.”

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