Flushing native and Army Reserve Sgt. Christine Won is proud to serve the U.S. and Queens community as she balances her passion for music and fitness with a teaching career and service to her country.
Won, 32, is featured in a new Army campaign, “It’s Your Time,” which celebrates the dual civilian and military careers of Army Reserve Soldiers. She is a graduate student and math teacher, while also serving as a senior musician and flutist in the Army Reserve Band.
“I’m very proud to be Asian and part of the Army Reserve,” said Won, who is based at the Fort Totten Army Reserve in Bayside. “I’m part of two communities – it’s not really two separate worlds where I’m a math teacher Monday through Friday, and a soldier Saturday through Sunday. It comes together because everybody in the Army Reserve is a leader and the leadership I learned I bring to civilian life.”
Originally from South Korea, Won moved to New York City when she was 14 years old and immediately fell in love with the city. While it was a different cultural environment for her, Won began to learn about diversity, especially growing up in Flushing, where there’s a large diverse Asian population.
As a student at Francis Lewis High School, she faced a language barrier and learned how to speak English. It wasn’t until she joined the Army Reserve at the age of 18 that she built up the confidence to speak a second language with the help of her colleagues and drill sergeant.
“I learned more about American culture, not just in New York City but across the state. I brought it to Flushing and I spoke to my friends who went to the JROTC at Francis Lewis High School and they said my English was much better,” Won said.
According to Won, she always wanted to join the military, as her male family members all served in the Korean military. When Won joined the U.S. Army Reserve, she wasn’t sure what she would do. With a musical background playing the piano and flute, there was a place for Won in the U.S. Army Reserve Band.
“We travel a lot within the community performing at Memorial Day events, Veteran’s Day and Christmas,” Won said. “Sometimes we march and other times we play as a whole group. The connection with the community is an amazing feeling.”
Outside of her military profession, Won is seeking to pursue a career as a math teacher in Flushing. She recently completed student teaching at Riverside High School in Yonkers and her master’s degree at Mercy College. Her dream is to teach at her alma mater Francis Lewis High School with her band teacher and math teacher.
Won said the U.S. Army Reserve training she received has helped her with communication and leadership skills.
“I learned so much to be who I am today. With this, I want to help all students, especially Asian students who are immigrating to the U.S., and assist them with study materials,” Won said.
Won also attributes her confidence and fitness to her Army Reserve experience, which pushed her from not being able to do one push-up to achieving the status of Army Master Fitness Trainer and traveling across the world to complete marathons.
She recalls not being able to do one push-up when she went to the recruiting center to join the military.
“I was very short, petite and underweight. It was hard for me to pass the medical exam. Once I went for basic training I knew I had to survive there. People always say if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. There were many colleagues and drill sergeants supporting me and teaching me how to do push-ups.”
Learning how to do a push-up was a significant accomplishment for Won. After that, she began running a couple of blocks in NYC and eventually started participating in running events.
“There are six major marathons in the world and my goal is to run the Boston Marathon,” Won said.
Being a part of the Army Reserve has given Won the time management and flexibility to serve her country and the community with her talent and skills.
“The Army Reserve really provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow personally and professionally,” Won said. “I am teaching my young niece how to be professional and my brother, who saw me join the military to serve, joined the National Guard last year. I’m glad I’m influencing others. I want others to have the same benefit and take advantage of this opportunity.”