Headstrong Project

Jul 26, 2019

2 min read

‘Facing Stigma’ with Mike Kim

“When my parents immigrated from Korea and the Dominican Republic, they felt it was very important for the whole family to have a sense of civic duty and not to have an empty patriotism. In many ways the military was an expectation for me. I joined a reserve special operations capable airborne unit called Anglico. While in the reserves, I obtained my degree from Norwich Military College in Vermontbefore getting recruited by the Coast Guard as an officer during the war on drugs. My mom passed away while I was in the Coast Guard so I decided to transition out after taking time off to care for her. I attended Yale University and studied philosophy, religion, and the psychology of religion. I felt empowered by my mom’s death to pursue a higher level of purpose and calling so I chose a monastic religious life for my future. I took vows in 2001, but several years later I left the Dominican Order order in good standing. By that time, I had completed clinical training in psychoanalysis and worked at different mental health facilities. With that experience, I started working at a Vet Center in Long Island where I counseled the first wave of troops coming back from Iraq. In 2007 during the surge, the Army was opening up huge recruitment opportunities for older veterans like myself and I felt compelled to do more after working with those troops. I went back in and deployed to Iraq for a year. I didn’t sign an extended contract so after my year deployment I got out and returned to the VA. I retired in 2017 after 15 years of federal service and am now pursuing my doctorate at Columbia University to research veteran spirituality. I’m scheduled to finish that in two years. I’m interested in continuing to serve veterans as a veteran. That fire is still within me and I’m very grateful for the many different opportunities I’ve had in my life.”

Healing the hidden wounds of war

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