As a first generation Vietnamese college student, Thien felt compelled to serve the country that willingly opened its arms to his family when they emigrated. After graduating from college, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve as a combat medic, and deployed to numerous countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, where he gained new responsibility caring for the mental health of his team.
During his service, Thien unfortunately witnessed fellow soldiers return home from deployment with undiagnosed health problems, including Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, only to deploy back to combat without treatment. Missed cases like those now serve as his primary motivation to pursue his medical degree. In the case of two friends, Thien strongly believes that their mental injuries could have been prevented had their unit realized the severity at the time and encouraged treatment protocol.
While enrolled in medical school, Thien continues to serve in the Washington State Army National Guard. He also remains active in the local community and recently became one of the founders of the Yakima Health Equity Forum (YHEF), an organization that brings together students, physicians, and local citizens who are committed to improving the health of Yakima.