Why I Serve: Spc. Ken Park

By Sgt. Bob Yarbrough | 220th Public Affairs Detachment | Nov. 20, 2019

FORT CUSTER, Mich. —

"I have no idea why I joined the Army," said Spc. Ken Park, a Soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan, about his military service. 

"My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat." Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Park never really felt like that was a life for him. "Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place."

"My recruiter even told me I couldn't join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later" said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so joined a gym, and through hard work and discipline ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to reprogram himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.

Being in the Army, Park said he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. "I didn't know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, 'How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18-year-old?' I had someone do that for me my whole life," said Park. "But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry," he said with a chuckle.

Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. "In AIT (Advanced Individual Training), I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. "There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don't know that I would have made it without them."

Park isn't new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the civil affairs community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opening. "There aren't many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say, 'Hey, I know you're tired, I got you,' and they take care of you so the mission still gets done."

Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an officer in the unit. "Capt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn," said Park, "because I'm fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant."

"Despite being told that I shouldn't, and couldn't, join the Army, I'm glad I did," said Park. "It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do."