Asian-Pacific Heritage: 1/15 Inf Regt Chaplain Shares Heritage With Soldiers
June 4, 2009
<b> FORT BENNING, Ga. </b> Aca,!" Chaplain (Capt.) Philip Jeon, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was excited to be the featured speaker at the 3rd HBCT's Asian Pacific Heritage Month luncheon at the Kelley Hill Dining Facility on Fort Benning, May 27.
"I'm very happy to be given the opportunity to share my background with everyone here," he told Soldiers in attendance. "My Family's story is the story of thousands of Pacific Asian Families."
Chaplain Jeon proudly shared how his father, in 1972, left his family in South Korea and moved to Baltimore with $100 in his pocket.
"He didn't come with a back-up plan," said Chap. Jeon. "He couldn't fail."
Chaplain Jeon's father, who spoke very little English, banded together with several other Koreans, who were in the same situation, and bought a rundown house in a poor neighborhood.
"For my father and others like him, the beginning was very difficult, but they forged ahead," he said. "He understood the concept of sacrificing in the short term for a huge reward later on."
Eventually, Chap. Jeon's father was able to bring his entire Family to Baltimore and open a grocery store.
"My father also brought eight members of his extended Family, his brothers and sisters, and their Families over as well," he said. "They were all in it together. That shared experience bonded them."
Chaplain Jeon credits his parents for instilling a good work effort in him.
"My parents would be up at 4 a.m. to go find and purchase wholesale items to stock the store and then work all day," he said. "Most of the time they would get off at 9 or 10 at night. Most people would have just wanted to come home and relax, but they didn't."
Chaplain Jeon said that when his parents arrived home at night, they would check their children's schoolwork. His mother would cook for the Family, to ensure they all had one hot meal a day.
Before they went to bed, Chap. Jeon said his Family would have Bible study together.
"Not only did it strengthen our religious faith, but it also allowed us to connect as a Family," he said. "We shared our daily issues, it allowed my brothers and me to speak Korean and keep in touch with that side of our heritage, and it allowed my parents to hear about our day and learn more about American culture. In so many ways, that time was special."
The values instilled in Chap. Jeon by his Family would help him transition into the military as an Army chaplain.
"Asian culture incorporates the Army values in every way," he said. "The concepts of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are all a part of the fabric of Asian American life."
Chaplain Jeon said he is grateful for his background and feels that his Family's guidance was a huge stepping stone to where he is now.
"My parents gave my brothers and (I) the freedom to choose what we wanted to do with our lives," he said. "We were never steered one way or another, but they did instill in me two very important concepts: they wanted me to choose a profession that I could look back on and be proud of, and they wanted me to strive to be the best at whatever I chose."
Chaplain Jeon said that his life story is shared by countless of Asian Americans that are serving in the Army.
"Whether their Families' background is Japanese, Chinese, Korean or any number of the countries in the South Pacific, their stories mirror mine," he said. "It isn't just an Asian story; it is an American story that everyone can relate to. Whether your Family came from Europe or Latin America, it is a heritage every race or culture can understand and connect with in a meaningful way."