Navy family celebrates its service
The group includes his own children, Petty Officer First Class Choi Yeong-wung, his 22-year-old son, and Petty Officer First Class Choi Ye-ju, his 21-year-old daughter; two nephews, Chief Petty Officer Choi Jeong-su, 36, and Chief Petty Officer Baek Sang-hoon, 33; a niece, Chief Petty Officer Lee Hee-gyeong, 29; and Lee’s husband, Chief Petty Officer Jo In-bae, 29.
Starting with the elder Choi, who began his military service in 1983 and who now holds one of the highest enlisted ranks in the service, the seven noncommissioned officers have served a total of 75 years in the Korean Navy.
“I delayed my service a few times because I didn’t want to join the military, but now I have become a role model for them,” he said.
His children, nephews and niece all attribute their decision to serve in the Navy to his influence. His daughter, Choi Ye-ju, who was previously studying law at Pai Chai University in Daejeon, even took time off from her studies to do so.
Now, the elder Choi readily admits that his decision to serve in the Navy was made without much planning - he chose to fulfill his military service within that branch specifically so he could meet more often with a close friend who lived in Changwon, South Gyeongsang.
“When I applied for the Navy as a short-term noncommissioned officer, I thought the period of service was three years, when it was actually four and a half years,” he said. “I believed I could meet my friend often while only serving my military duty for a short period.”
However, “while working as a petty officer, I found out I could achieve my personal goals and serve my country at the same time,” he added.
Currently in his 31st year in the Navy, the family patriarch has earned licenses in accounting, social welfare, care work and industrial engineer information processing. But though Choi and his pack are bound by blood, they are still soldiers first.
On Monday, the group gathered together at the Gyeryongdae complex to celebrate the birth of Chief Lee’s first child on Sept. 20. And while it wasn’t easy for her to make the journey down, she came willingly at Choi’s request.
“Let us be a proud and enduring Navy family,” Choi said, as his petty officers gathered around him.
BY JEONG YONG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]