Unit: Col. Bull Dental Clinic

Military occupational specialty: 68E – dental specialist

Age: 35

Hometown: San Diego by way of Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Time in service: 2 years

Talk about yourself: “I love my family. I love others. I love cooking. I love helping, and I always look for the good in life. Family is most important to me, however. In the Army, I’m trying everything I can to better myself and learn. I recently went on a DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) mission in Laos. I also volunteered for the Remote Area Medical last weekend (June 22). I do a lot of volunteer work. I think the reason is this country – my country – has given me a lot. It has opened its arms to welcome us, so if it is possible, I just want to give my best (in return).”

Pastimes: “I help my wife take care of the kids, help rake the leaves along the gardens and I try to learn every handyman job. Of course, I cook as well.”

Your worst fear: “That I’m not working hard enough. I feel like there is a steep cliff behind me. I can’t go backward. It’s always motivated me to look forward.”

Favorite movie: “‘Forrest Gump.’ It motivates me. If you want to accomplish something, you stick with it, do good for others and your dreams will come true.”

Your dream car: “The Bugatti Chiron.”

If you won the lottery … “I would buy a house in New York, D.C., San Francisco and every major city in the U.S.”

If you could do anything, anywhere right now, what and where would that be? “Working at home so I can spend more time with family like homeschooling my kids.”

The celebrity or historical figure you would like to meet: “George Washington. I visited Mount Vernon (Washington’s home). I want to ask him why he didn’t choose to become something like an emperor. Everybody likes power. Why did he give up his?”

Something no one would guess about you: “That I have a lot of bad habits. People think I’m a hard worker, but actually I can be lazy. I’d like to just watch Netflix and sleep, but I can’t.”

One life-changing event: “Coming to the U.S. Everything I experienced motivated me to be a better man. I see how people here treat their families, their friends, others and themselves. Before I came here, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I worked to achieve other peoples’ expectation, and didn’t have any expectation of myself. Life here is treated in ways I never thought it could be. Everything here is so true. It feels like you’re living in the real world.”

Talk about your journey to the U.S.: “I came here in 2013 with my family. We wanted a better life. We know this is a free and a democratic country.  Back in China, I was working in foreign trade. Economically, the country has grown fast, but only a certain part of the population has benefited. The income and wealth of most have not increased. I didn’t want my kids having the same life as my wife and I.”

Why you joined the Army: “I chose the Army because I wanted a career. It would be hard switching over the job I had in China to the same job in the U.S. because of the rules. I also wanted to do something for my country. This country was so generous to me and my family. Another reason I joined is I thought I was unhealthy. I was a fat man (at about 5 feet, 7 inches, Zhao weighed 190 pounds).  I wanted to do something to not only change myself but to make my kids proud – if you want to achieve something, even if you’re an old man, you can make it come true. I lost 30 pounds in boot camp and feel like I’m healthier.”

The most challenging part of your job: “Everything is new to me because dental is not my background. Also, in addition to seeing patients daily, I have to be a Soldier. That means I have to keep up my skills.”

The ‘bad’ about your job: “The only bad thing is that I have to wake up at 4 (a.m.) every day. I get back home at about 1800 (6 p.m.).”

What it means to wear the uniform: “It feels good when people say, ‘Thanks for your service’ as you walk the streets. I didn’t know what that meant while I was in AIT. I can appreciate it now. When I was in Richmond, I bought a cake for my family. They gave me a (military) discount. I almost felt like crying. They said, ‘Thanks for your service,’ and gave me a huge discount. It really means something, and I was touched by it.”

Best thing about the Army: “That it is a profession that feels like family.”

Worst thing about the Army: “The structure (meaning bureaucracy), but it’s necessary.”

Where you see yourself in five years: “My short-term goal is to apply for officer candidate school (at year’s end) and learn about cybersecurity.”