Occupation: Student, US Military
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 13, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Korean
Informant E was born in Korea and moved to El Centro California when she was 4. Before she came to USC she found that she was accepted into the school but also enlisted in the military. She put school on hold and deferred for a semester and went to training at the age of 17, and was one of the youngest soldiers to graduate. And after her experience with boot camp she came back to USC and started school and contracted to army ROTC. She has been deployed over the summers to Korea. She studies Psychology and Linguistics as a double major and a Forensics Criminality minor combined with dance as well. She wants to use her schooling and military experience to be in the FBI one day.
So in the military we have a lot of military balls we have a lot of Veterans Day dinners and banquets where everyone comes up in their nice dress uniform. But specifically we had this one Veterans Night/Dinner/Ball put on by USC and it happens every year but it’s a tradition that the very youngest cadet and the very senior oldest cadre member come together to cut the dessert cake together. It’s been an ongoing thing not just within USC Veterans Day dinner but also balls outside of USC. And I think it symbolize the fact that the youngest and the oldest and everyone in between is a part of this ceremony. I have a very late birthday and I joined the military at the age of 17 which is the absolute youngest and so the first couple years it was me that was cutting the cake with this like 5 star general and personally it was such an honor and it made me feel really important. Like I was a part of this ceremony with this amazing phenomenal general who was in several wars, and just to stand beside him and doing this together symbolizes the fact that we are one, an army of one, one fight, one team. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget that and I know that every year we have this and it’s a new younger cadet and a new older senior personnel every time and I know kind of what exactly they feel. It’s a huge honor and its very humbling too. Everyone’s watching you do this and what it signifies. It’s an amazing tradition. This is one night that everyone who has served beside you comes together and everyone comes together out of this stressful environment, everyone just comes together and has a good time. I do find it nostalgic and it makes me proud too because some of these cadets I’ve mentored and taken under my wing growing up and now they’re up there doing this thing and I know the experience they’re having. Its really humbling and it’s a moment of joy and pride and its very nostalgic because I was once up there too.
Honoring those who came before is very important. Before every function we have this table we set for our Prisoner of War and Missing In Action brothers and sisters in arms. It’s very specific. We have this table set and the tablecloth signifies that they’re not here with us, the empty chair signifies that they’re not here with us, there’s a plate set out because were waiting for them to come. There’s a slice of lemon on this plate to symbolize their sour fate and there’s some salt to symbolize all the tears that we’ve cried waiting for them to come home. And after everything we say that we remember and we toast to them in the end. I think it’s another tradition before we start all these functions that we still remember them and we still honor them even when they’re not here with us.
The military places a strong emphasis on community and unity. This tradition with cutting the cake symbolizes that everyone from the oldest to the youngest is a valued member and is honored in this ceremony. This helps unite the military together even more. Even those who are not currently present are honored as well because they are still included in the community. The military also emphasizes honoring and remembering those who have came before. The informant mentions how humbled she was to have the opportunity to cut the cake and how proud she felt to stand next to this celebrated general and to be a part of the military.