Korean-American pursues American dream
February 4, 2011
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Spc. Jayson Lee's story is unique. The 29-year-old Soldier serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom XI also once served on active duty in the Republic of Korea army.
Lee said he joined the U.S. Army because he wanted to go into the aviation field. "I desire to learn English more, (and) then go to college to get a master's degree - kind of an American dream."
Lee was born in 1981 in Texas, where he lived with his father, his mother and older sister. He lived there for only five years, so he said he doesn't remember much from that time. In November 1985, Lee's Family decided to move back to South Korea to be closer to relatives who live in Seoul.
As a child, Lee spent his days like a typical kid. He enjoyed playing video games and reading his favorite comic books.
After graduating high school in February 2000, Lee attended Myung-Ji College in Korea for four years, where he earned a bachelor's degree in advanced science and material. He also took on a minor degree in mechanics.
While working on his degree, Lee joined the Republic of Korea army to fulfill his mandatory two years of service.
He left for basic training Dec. 17, 2002. The ROK army's basic training consists of tasks very similar to those of the U.S. Army, including chemical training, marching, a combat lifesaver course and weapon qualification with the Korean K-2 rifle. Soldiers complete all of their training in six weeks, before being assigned to their first unit.
Lee's first assignment was 2nd Division, near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. His job consisted of providing surveillance for his artillery unit, which trained for threats by climbing nearby mountains to do reconnaissance surveillance of the area beyond the DMZ.
After completing his service with the ROK army in 2005, Lee completed his bachelor's degree and contemplated his future. That's when he decided to go after his dream and raised his right hand to join the ranks of the U.S. Army.
While still living in South Korea, Lee joined the U.S. Army as an air traffic control operator Sept. 22, 2009. He reflected on some of the enjoyable things he would leave behind in South Korea, such as reliable public transportation, convenient Internet, camping in the valley and affection between people. However, his pursuit of the American dream was heavy on his mind. After going through another basic training and technical school, Lee was sent to Fort Drum as his first duty station.
When Lee raised his right hand to join, he knew it was likely that he would deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan - especially in the aviation field.
"I really worried about deploying," he said. "U.S. Soldiers are going to deploy to hazardous areas. I felt a little bit afraid of it."
However, his ambition to achieve his dreams dominated any fear he had about deploying. It is one of Lee's goals to make a career of the Army. His ambition lies in taking the aviation experience he gains from the Army and transferring it to a civilian job after his 20 years are complete.
Lee said he enjoys just about everything in the Army, and he is proud of supporting Operation Enduring Freedom XI. He plans to re-enlist as soon as his window opens.
(Brown is a contributing writer who serves with Task Force Phoenix)