• Kim said he first knew of the internet jokes after his friends and members of his Navy platoon sent him the memes.
  • Kim said none of his career decisions were prompted by chasing medals or to seek approval, and that he makes sure that he imparts that outlook to his children.
  • "I never want my children to ever feel like they need to be a SEAL, or that they need to go into medicine, or be an astronaut in order to please me because I don't think that's very fair. I just want them to live their own lives."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas joked that he felt "horribly, horribly inadequate" while speaking in front of a group of newly-graduated NASA astronauts on Friday.

"What the heck have we been doing with our lives," Cruz said of himself and his Republican colleague, Sen. John Cornyn, and pointed to one of the astronauts in particular, US Navy Lt. Jonny Kim.

"You're a Navy SEAL, with a degree to Harvard Medical School," Cruz said of Kim. "That's just ridiculous. I mean, he can kill you and bring you back to life and do it all in space."

Since his graduation, Kim's accomplishments have catapulted him to viral fame.

"If there was a movie that came about this guy, you would've never believed it," said one of the co-hosts for the veterans-themed podcast "Zero Blog Thirty."

Kim said he first knew of the jokes after his friends and members of his Navy platoon sent him the memes.

"I think they're funny," Kim told Business Insider in an interview. "I don't take any of them seriously, but I appreciate the spirit and the comedy that people put into it."

jonny kim
jonny kim
Josh Valcarcel/NASA

Kim, a 35-year-old Los Angeles native, graduated from the latest astronaut candidate class and is now eligible to partake in NASA missions. He is the second Korean-American NASA astronaut after Mark Polansky.

His resume includes Navy SEAL training and over 100 combat missions during two deployments to Iraq, where he served as a sniper, medic, and navigator; he earned a Silver Star for battlefield valor. He then graduated from the University of San Diego, where he earned a degree in mathematics; and then became an officer in the US Navy.

'I made a promise to those guys who died'

Following his commission, he attended Harvard Medical School and graduated in 2017. His reason for attending one of the world's top medical schools is based on his former teammates, who were shot during a deployment to Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. Two of his friends were killed, including one who was shot in the face.

"It was one of the worst feelings of helplessness," Kim said to The Harvard Gazette in 2017. "There wasn't much I could do, just make sure his bleeding wasn't obstructing his airway, making sure he was positioned well. He needed a surgeon. He needed a physician and I did eventually get him to one, but that feeling of helplessness was very profound for me."

jonny kim
jonny kim
NASAexplores

Despite an impressive portfolio, Kim said none of his career decisions were prompted by chasing medals or to seek approval, and that it is imperative to "follow your heart."

"For me ... after having some intense wartime experiences where I lost a lot of good friends that I've loved, I made a promise to those guys who died that I'd do everything in my power for the rest of my life to make this world a better place," Kim said to Business Insider. "Because those men were great human beings and they left a void."

"I've chased that, going into medicine," Kim added. "It wasn't as simple as, 'I want to do this because it's an accomplishment.' It's never been that shallow for me."

As a father of three kids, Kim says he makes sure he imparts that outlook on life for his children: "My only expectation, which I tell my kids very, very often, is that they follow their heart."

"My kids, I love it when they tell me, 'Abba, I want to be an artist,'" Kim said, referring to the casual, Korean word for "dad." "And I say, that is awesome ... I just want you to be happy and to follow your heart."

"I never want my children to ever feel like they need to be a SEAL, or that they need to go into medicine, or be an astronaut in order to please me because I don't think that's very fair. I just want them to live their own lives. I don't hesitate at every opportunity to remind my children of that."

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