I am in disbelief that more than half of my Mitchell year has already passed. Apart from a calm and snowy two week period in December, time spent on course work, with new friends, and with Mitchell Scholars has kept me busy.
In November, I had the privilege of attending the 235th Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Dublin with Steven Sifuentes, his wife Heather, and Joey Graziano. The ball began with drinks, introductions with the Marine Corps soldiers stationed in Dublin, and a video presentation of the history of the Marine Corps by General James Amos, the current Commandant of the Marine Corps. The presentation included black and white images and video footage of Marines in the Korean War to present-day Marine Corps operations.
Despite my Korean heritage, my historical understanding of American involvement in South Korea is not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. The video was an important reminder that I may never have been an American if President Truman had not decided to enter the Korean War. Before the closing of the 38th parallel, my maternal grandfather and his family left their hometown in North Korea to enter and remain in South Korea for the rest of their lives. My paternal grandfather may not have been able to grow his business in a communist South Korea, which would have impacted their ability to send their son, my father, to study in America. The Americans’ traveling to fight in Korea also brought with them the idea of the ‘American dream.’ My parents eventually took one giant step toward that dream by moving to the United States and—having never forgotten their cultural history—they have continued to work towards their goals.
America’s foreign policy has undeniably effected tremendous changes throughout the course of history. I grew up in small-town Indiana surrounded by anti-government neoliberalism and attended college with left-wing anti-establishment pacifists. What will forever remain unchanged is my respect for those Americans who served in Korea, which led to my growing up in the United States. Unfortunately, we may not know the long-term impact of American military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan for some time, but the Marines that I met have sacrificed their time, energy, and lives with hopes for a more stabilized region. Although nothing will bring back the lives that were lost in these wars, I hope that our intervention will eventually lead towards positive effects for Afghans, Iraqis, and Americans alike. Whether it was the September 11th attacks, President Bush’s request for support, or Christopher Hitchens’ justifications for entering Iraq, and regardless of the climate of fear that existed in the last decade, these soldiers enlisted to offer their assistance in defending our country from serious anti-American militants.
The Mitchell Scholarship has not only offered me this opportunity to better recognize Irish life, but has also pushed me to learn more about military issues since both Steven and Kyle are serving. In the next few weeks I will meet them again along with all the other Mitchell Scholars in Belfast, and I assume we will start new conversations about American and Irish politics, our respective Irish experiences, the ongoing Middle Eastern revolution, and other global affairs.