By Stacy FlodenMay 31, 2017
FRANKFORT, Ky. - He was born in Busan, Republic of Korea (South Korea) and lived in Seoul from elementary school through college. His father first came to America on his own for seminary, and it was his father's decision to move his family to America for the educational opportunities. In 1979, Yong Cho immigrated to America with his parents and three sisters at the age of 20.
Col. Cho, the first Asian American State Chaplain in the Kentucky National Guard, represents the people, history and heritage of Asians and Pacific Islanders who live in this country and abroad.
He has served 30 years in the Active Army, Reserve and National Guard. Cho has been in the Kentucky Guard since 1996 as a traditional Guardsmen and was named state chaplain in October of 2013. He is also a full time pastor at his church in Radcliff and currently serves as a faculty member teaching courses in the Old Testament and Archaeology at undergraduate and graduate level institutions.
"They say that America is the land of freedom and opportunity. On a personal level, America gave me the opportunity to serve my country and contribute to society - all while staying true to who I am," said Cho. "It's amazing to experience the Soldiers and leaders in the Kentucky National Guard who have accepted me and who encourage me to preserve my heritage."
And as we celebrated Asian Pacific American Heritage month in May, Col. Cho wants people to know that he is a Korean-American who came from a country known as the "Land of Morning Calm" with its own rich history and traditions. "I am proud of my native country's unique culture. Coming to America and joining the Kentucky National Guard has actually allowed me to cherish my heritage even more."
Lt. Col. Bill Draper has worked full-time as a support chaplain since 2004. With his duties, he works closely with Cho. "Col. Cho has a shepherd's heart in caring for the religious health of the organization. As the senior Army chaplain for the Kentucky National Guard, he works diligently to ensure all Soldiers are treated with respect regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation. It is a pleasure to work alongside Cho as he provides direction and leadership to our corps."
Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders serving in the U.S. military make up a small percentage of the U. S. population. "You probably don't see many Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders in the military, I didn't really think about the possibility of seeing an Asian American in a high-level position, much less myself taking on that role," said Cho. "For me, it would have been impossible to rise in rank from private to colonel without the support of other Soldiers, NCOs, commanders and fellow chaplains and chaplain assistants in the Kentucky National Guard."
This month-long celebration recognizes the unique and rich heritage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in America. Throughout their history, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed to our nation, along with many other groups of people who call America home.
"I believe America is the most tolerant country when it comes to embracing diverse cultures from all over the world. Observing Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month is an educational opportunity," said Cho. "The month of May allows the public, especially our younger generations, to understand the important role Asian Americans have played in shaping America into the great nation that it is today. They can also learn that different people can unite and work together for the common good."
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad completion on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks of that nation-unifying railway were Chinese immigrants.
"Even in times of hardship and prejudice, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders endured and continued to help strengthen our nation. I don't think all common folks understand the role Asian American and Pacific Islanders have played in the U.S. Military," stated Cho. "Today, it's not hard to find that many dedicated Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are serving in various military occupations, and they are vital to the success of our military and security of our nation."
As the state chaplain, Cho is responsible for supervising the religious programs for the Kentucky National Guard, evaluating the recruiting and training of the state's chaplains and chaplain's assistants, and other matters related to the Kentucky's Chaplain Corps. He advises the adjutant general on the morale of the Kentucky Guard as well.