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Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

Fighting for Freedom: Honor the Brave Heroes Among the Community

Senior+Mathias+Lee+%28fifth+from+left%29+gathers+at+the+retirement+ceremony+of+his+uncle+HeeWoon+Yoon+%28thirteenth+from+left%29+with+his+family+to+celebrate+Yoon%E2%80%99s+tumultuous+journey+as+a+veteran+and+commitment+to+defending+the+country+in+the+Marine+Corps.
Courtesy of Mathias Lee
Senior Mathias Lee (fifth from left) gathers at the retirement ceremony of his uncle HeeWoon Yoon (thirteenth from left) with his family to celebrate Yoon’s tumultuous journey as a veteran and commitment to defending the country in the Marine Corps.

As Americans honor the bravery and sacrifice of our servicemen and women on Veterans Day, these Portola High students provide insight into what it is like having a relative in the military, expressing gratitude for their service.

Calvin Wat

Senior Calvin Wat’s older brother Miles Wat currently serves in the military as a Marine firefighter. Stationed in Maui, Hawaii, Miles Wat and his platoon prepared to fight the recent Maui wildfires, as their work includes fires both around the military base and across the island. As a result of his brother’s service, Calvin Wat feels mixed emotions about having an active-duty family member.

“It’s great because now I have a reason to go visit Hawaii more often, but at the same time, I don’t get to see him as often, so it’s kind of weird,” Calvin Wat said.

Although Miles Wat’s first choice was to be involved with police work, his time in the military transformed him into a more open and talkative person, according to Calvin Wat. Additionally, Calvin Wat shared his brother’s stories about being exposed to mustard gas in boot camp and taking painful vaccination shots as part of the recruitment process in basic training.

“I’m not as brave as him,” Calvin Wat said. “After the stories I’ve heard about the boot camp process for the Marines, I could not do that.”

Mathias Lee

Senior Mathias Lee’s uncle HeeWon Yoon was a Master Sergeant in the Marine Corps. Now retired, Yoon  resides in Maryland, where Lee recently attended his retirement ceremony. 

Lee heard his uncle explain the reasons he joined the military, the struggles he experienced and the successes he achieved to overcome adversity as he pushed himself to a high leadership position, according to Lee. 

“I’ve developed a greater sense of respect and pride to have someone like that in my family because he’s been stationed in Afghanistan and other war zones in the past,” Lee said. “It’s just really cool to have family who’s literally been willing to lay their life down in those areas of the world.”

After being exposed to his uncle’s unique perspectives, Lee opened his eyes to the numerous options available for high school students to join the military and the true meaning of military service: defending the people you love, according to Lee. 

“It was through conversations with my uncle that you realize what type of person is actually meant for the military,” Lee said. “They have one common goal, which is to serve and protect the people of the United States. And that was something that intrigued me because it gives you that bigger purpose in life. It’s fulfilling to know that you’re serving a group of people that you really care for, and in this case, it’s your country.”

Many conversations later, Lee decided to apply to service academies to join the military. Upon hearing Lee’s decision to follow his uncle’s footsteps, Yoon has been nothing but excited and supportive, providing Lee with books about the intense application process, according to Lee. 

While Lee recognizes that the process to enter the military is rigorous as applicants must pass fitness tests, medical exams and interviews, Lee is confident about his choice to head down this difficult, but rewarding career path.

“In the end, I might not even make it,” Lee said. “But either way, I feel like I’m headed in such a good direction that no matter what happens, it would have been worth it.”

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About the Contributors
Camille Clement, Staff Writer
Camille Clement is a staff writer for her first year on the Portola Pilot. Through her work, she hopes to amplify voices in the community and inform her fellow bulldogs. In her freetime, she enjoys discovering new music and spending time with friends. When she’s resisting the urge to online shop, Camille’s usually playing with her dog or scouring Letterboxd for a new movie to obsess over. This year, she couldn’t be more ecstatic to join the Pilot and share the most intriguing stories with her peers.
Madeline Chung, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Madeline Chung is the Arts and Entertainment Editor for her second and final year on the Portola Pilot. When she is not complaining about how terrible she is at Physics C concepts, you will find her screaming her heart out at karaoke, grooving to New Jeans, or indulging in her favorite foods: Korean BBQ, hotpot, ramen… you name it (not sushi though—she’s allergic). If she is not harassing Elise Ngo, she will be trying to savor every final moment in the newsroom.. and at Portola High. She is so excited to make her last year count.
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