I always knew I wanted to give back to this great country.

By MaryTherese GriffinDecember 27, 2023

I always knew I wanted to give back to this great country.
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Major Hai Pham competes in cycling for Team Army at the 2022 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando, Florida. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
I always knew I wanted to give back to this great country.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj Hai Pham receives a commendation as he departs the United Arab Emirates from Maj Gen Seed Rashid Ali Al Shehhi, Commander, United Arab Emirates Land Forces. (Photo Credit: MaryTherese Griffin) VIEW ORIGINAL
I always knew I wanted to give back to this great country.
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Major Hai Pham will retire in February after 28 years of service and start a new career as a sports agent in Southern California. (Photo Credit: MaryTherese Griffin)
I always knew I wanted to give back to this great country.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Hai Pham on deployment to Iraq as an E6 Gunner. “Cooks didn’t cook in 2005- we did security operations when needed,” said Hai Pham. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FALLS CHURCH Va- It’s been quite a journey in the Army for Major Hai Pham, a Military Intelligence officer who will retire on Feb 24, 2024. “I enlisted at first. I have two MOSs. I enlisted as a cook. Back then, the motto was Be all you can be, and I just realized that as I retire, that motto is back. What a full circle moment.”

Born in Vietnam, Pham came to the US in 1975. “I think back to the Lutheran church in Appleton, Wisconsin, which sponsored my family when we first arrived in America. I always knew I wanted to give back to this great country,” he said proudly.

Pham says his transition from cook to intelligence officer was surreal. “After my Iraq deployment, the MIRC (Military Intelligence Readiness Command) had a language immersion opportunity. The Army needed people who knew another language, and I knew Vietnamese. A Lt Col then talked to me about Military Intelligence, so I went the intelligence route and saw the world.”

Major Pham’s Army Career ends as he exits the Army Recovery Care Program. He learned what it meant to recover and overcome after he was injured from a deployment in 2020. “I was injured at Camp Red Lake, United Arab Emirates- I was training on a ruck march and tore my hip labrum. My job was to close down Camp Red Lake, and it was during Covid.” After his injury and because of COVID, he ended up at the US Embassy, and he couldn’t go anywhere for eight months.

“I took on a mission while at the US Embassy, and from there when it was possible, I was sent to the Soldier Recovery Unit at Joint Base Lewis McChord,” said Pham, who was no stranger to ARCP.

“I knew what the then Warrior Transition Battalion was because 12 years ago, when I came back from Iraq, I was injured and had surgery back then.” He had a torn left shoulder labrum from his daily flak vest that weighed around 80 pounds.

He says he took advantage of everything the program offered then and recently. “It was different from what it was 12 years prior. I saw them visibly grow over 12 years.”

He discovered Adaptive Sports and was hooked. “I never knew what Warrior Games was. I was just there to get better, to get healing underway, and that, of course, was my goal. Then, I was introduced to adaptive sports.”

He made Team Army, Competing at the 2022 Warrior Games in Orlando, Florida, in cycling, rowing, and wheelchair rugby. “The camaraderie was awesome, and I met a lot of great veterans. And not just the athletes, the whole team, from Physical Therapists to everyone at ARCP, have been amazing.”

Succeeding in making Team Army helped build him physically and confidently in ways he could never have imagined. “There is a meaning within yourself that you can do anything no matter what happens to you. Even when you get out of the Army. When I watch my teammate Brent Garlic do what he does on the wheelchair basketball court and see what he does after the Army, it’s great to be there with all these inspirational athletes and hear their stories.”

The married father of two is proud his story is to be part of the history of Warrior Games. “I’ve always been proud to be an American, but the chance to represent Team Army was awesome. My boy is so proud and proudly wears his Army Family T-shirt.”

He sees the sun setting on his military career but is thankful the SRU at JBLM had even more opportunities to help him succeed in the future. “The SRU always has programs lined up to help with whatever track you are going on, both the educational and the job. Since I can't stay in because I was also diagnosed with Diabetes, the MEDBOARD happened, and my retirement is set. I took advantage of the employment opportunities at Job fairs and took classes. The SRU allowed me time to get certified to be a sports agent. I’ve finished, and I even have my business cards ready!”

Hai Pham is ready for the next chapter in his family’s life and looks back with no regrets. “I’ve seen a lot in the Amy from being a cook to military intelligence, my deployments, and my time at the U.S. Embassy…from injuries to great recovery and now to retirement. I can’t complain.”