Mr. Hoffman: from military to mathematics
By Amanda C. (’18)
“Transitions were always the hardest for me after my deployments during the war,” Mr. Christopher Hoffman, the chair of middle school math department, said when describing his transition from the military to everyday civilian life. Mr. Hoffman had been in the military for more than 20 years and encountered many conflicts overseas during his service, many of which are forever sacred to him. Many times, he had to make decisions that would make significant impact to the world and people under his command.
Many influential people in his life encouraged him to join the military. Mr. Hoffman said, “I’ve always wanted to be in the military since I was young, and my dad and uncles were in the military as well.”
One of his favorite things to do as a child was to listen to the stories from the neighbors or teachers about their previous experiences in the military.
After his training in the military, he was deployed multiple times to Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan for military support. “The scene and experience there [Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan] were a constant part of my life, which is heavy baggage I have to carry for the rest of my life,” Mr. Hoffman said about being a flight engineer on C-130 aircraft. To him, it was emotionally burdening to see the environment of war
zones and the actions that he was complied to carry out during his missions. There were constant bombings and shootings that happened at the war zones, which were not like those portrayed in movies. “I am grateful to be back without being physically harmed,” Mr. Hoffman said.
However, coming back home safely was not the end of the journey. For Mr. Hoffman, the emotional set downs were a nonstop pain that would remind him about the atrocities that he experienced during the war. “Sometimes it is very painful to relive the things you have done an
d seen, and it took years for me to settle down a bit. It’s still not done and it will never be,” Mr. Hoffman said.
“The scene and experience there were a constant part of my life, which is heavy baggage I have to carry for the rest of my life.”
After his last deployment in Afghanistan in 2004 and spending more than 20 years in the military, it was time for Mr. Hoffman to adjust from a soldier back to a civilian. However, the memories and drastic change in lifestyles, especially, became the hardest back to consume.
Sometimes he would think to himself, “I’d give my right arm to go back to [the military] just because that became my norm. It became my life and how I am supposed to be,” Mr. Hoffman said.
As a veteran from the military, Mr. Hoffman realizes the i
mportance of service and responsibility. “Despite the years of service in the military, the main purpose for everyone is to defend the constitution of the United States and protect the rights for the Americans and allies around the world,” Mr Hoffman said.
Ms. Kawamoto: new appreciation for civilian life
By Kelly P. (‘20)
“I would do it all over again,” Ms. Kawamoto, Taipei American School athletics director, said when describing her experience in the military. Ms. Kawamoto’s military journey had come to play an integral role in her life, but looking back, her journey into the military had rocky beginnings.
Many colleges had offered Ms. Kawamoto to play collegiate basketball. Although she had no intention to join the military, her parents convinced her to eventually attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York on a full military scholarship.
“I wanted to go to other colleges to play basketball, but my parents pointed out that if I got hurt I might lose my scholarship in those places,” Ms. Kawamoto said. Conversely, Ms. Kawamoto realized that if she attended the military academy her scholarship would be insured—but it required five years of military service upon graduation.
After her time in college, Ms. Kawamoto commissioned as a second lieutenant, served as an assistant basketball coach at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in New Jersey before her training began for the military. Before attending her first tour, Ms. Kawamoto went to a military outpost in the state of Georgia to train for her position as a lieutenant. “The military is a continuous process of education. Every time your time at one post ends, you have to go through training for your next role,” Ms. Kawamoto said.
Ms. Kawamoto’s first military deployment as a lieutenant was in South Korea near the city of Wonju. “I remember it like it was yesterday because we were out in the field all the time,” Ms. Kawamoto said. While she was in Korea, Ms. Kawamoto oversaw frequent platoon exercises and other training protocols with other soldiers deployed with her. Even though it was her first deployment, like many other West Point graduates, Ms. Kawamoto started in a position of leadership. “I was not as sure of myself at first, but at the time I just did it because it was my job to do it well,” Ms. Kawamoto said.
After her time in Korea, Ms. Kawamoto toured in Afghanistan for two years. “It was one of the worst times of my life,” she said. With grueling schedules, turbulent terrain and the rundown facilities, Ms. Kawamoto’s time in Afghanistan was both challenging and dangerous. In addition to their daily routines, the constant level of danger that she along with others faced was difficult to deal with. “I know it sounds morbid, but I would often wake up in the morning not knowing whether I would still be alive by the end of the day,” she said.
After her time in Korea and Afghanistan, Ms. Kawamoto returned to civilian life. “The military really made me appreciate the everyday privileges I had,” Ms. Kawamoto said. “The military can be a great career choice for those of you who want to be in positions of leadership and those of you who want to serve the country.”
Photo caption: Ms. Kawamoto stands in her uniform on her retirement day. [PHOTO COURTESY OF MS. KIM KAWAMOTO]