FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves," said Shakespeare.
Brig. Gen. John M. Cho, surrounded by family and friends received his first star on June 21, 2013, at Fort Myer, Virginia. He has become the first Active Component American Soldier of Korean descent to achieve the rank of Brigadier General.
Cho recognizes those that have helped him along the way, pointing out mentors, peers, friends and family. Family is important and his destiny seems to have been influence by a family history that spans several generations.
Brig. Gen. Cho is the son of Shin Hyung Cho who served as a Republic of Korea lieutenant fighting in the Korean War from 1950 -- 1953. It was a grueling ground and air war that involved South Korea, North Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, and members of the United Nations, killing over 2.5 million Soldiers and Civilians.
Cho's father, Lt. Cho, lost his mother and sister in the war. Like many others he came to the United States for opportunity and a fresh start after the trauma of war. Now, years later upon witnessing his son's promotion he remarked, "We waited a long time for this…" and adds with a Father's pride, "…my son will do a wonderful job."
"I joined the Army because my parents instilled a great sense of loyalty and appreciation for all that the United States did in support of the people of the Republic of Korea- especially during the Korean War," said Brig. Gen. Cho. He compares his parents' values to those of the Army. "My father always said, '…someone always has it tougher than you - so you need to take care of others.'"
Cho explained that joining the Army was an "easy decision" which led him to apply to the United States Military Academy at West Point. "It was a way of 'giving back' and providing a service to a community that has done so much for me and my family."
Graduating from high school at age 16 he had to wait one year before joining up, so he studied at UCLA before joining the Class of 1984.
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) assisted with the "pinning" honors. Friends or relatives are given the honor of removing the old rank and pinning on the new in order to signify the new start and new responsibilities the Soldier takes on. Cho's wife and children participated in the "pinning"
Lt. Gen. Horoho said, "Cho has the "right" balance of character to include competence, compassion, credibility, courage and selfless service."
Cho is currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (G-3/5/7), U.S. Army Medical Command and soon to be the Commanding General for the Europe Regional Medical Command and the Command Surgeon for U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army in Germany. His proudest accomplishment was to be the Chief of Surgical Services for the most forward deployed level III Hospital- the 212th MASH- during the initials phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The resuscitative and life-saving surgery performed on Soldiers that were on the front line not 15 minutes before - reinforced the importance of the mission. Years later when he commanded the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, he felt a similar sense of pride in being part of a team that received, triaged, and further treated all wounded warriors that returned from the Theaters of Operations.
"Today's ceremony is one in which we recognize excellence, but it is also about family," said Horoho. No general officer can reach that rank without committed support from family," she said.
Cho certainly agrees with the importance of family. The Cho family was out in full support including his wife of 27 years, Kathy, and their three children.
"Giving back" does not rest with one son. There is a tradition many times over, as with many families, to take up what another started. Cho thanked his brother and son for going into the "family business."
The eldest son, an Army Cadet, has completed his first year at West Point, and will soon attend Air Assault School. "My father has great passion and was my parent, mentor and friend," he said.
Also in attendance was his brother, another West Point graduate, deployed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and recipient of the Bronze Star. He is currently a Flight Surgeon and Research Physician at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab located at Fort Rucker, AL. "I am so excited for my brother - he was my role model and inspiration…the Army is all about teamwork, dignity and respect," said Maj Cho.
Cho's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Shin and Kum Cho also attended. Shin Cho is a grandfather of a growing family. At one time he was Lieutenant Shin Hyung Cho, whom survived three years of war to see a son fulfill a destiny spelled out 'not in the stars' but in the values of his growing family.