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Each day, the VA honors a special military veteran for their dedicated service on their blog, VAntage Point. Today’s featured military member is a veteran who was deployed multiple times as a pilot to Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jaden Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to California at the age of three. In high school, she was initially drawn to the Army, but quickly realized she actually wanted to be a Marine. 

Once Kim entered officer candidate school, she fractured her ankle, making training very painful. Nonetheless, she completed her training and moved on to flight school. She was deployed in April 2002 to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, where she flew missions with her squadron over Afghanistan for 6 months before returning to the United States in October. In 2003 she was deployed again for Operation Southern Watch, which consisted of round-the-clock operations, split into night and day shifts.

“After flying those kinds of missions for six months, by the time we got to Iraq, it really didn’t seem that big a deal,” she said. “The only difference was that you were really getting shot at every day. The amazing thing about it is that–I can’t really speak for anybody else, but for me, it didn’t bother me that much because I was so focused on trying to get the mission complete. For us, we knew that a lot of our work… was going to be battlefield preparation. Before our guys on the ground can move in, we want to make sure that anything that can hurt them… is knocked out and out of the way.”

“It was more than my fate–the overriding emotions and concerns, that came from all the aviators that I served with, was really about the guy on the ground, and the other people that we needed to support. And a sense of failure if we couldn’t do what we needed to do….”

Kim Returned to the US in May of 2003 and stayed with her squadron to help train replacements, stressing the importance of camaraderie amongst the pilots and the 180 Marines who make sure all of the jets are flight ready.

“If I wanted to continue flying, or if I wanted to continue in the Marine Corps, it would be for them. Because, regardless of everything else, they’re really the unsung heroes.”

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