Asian American Veterans Association
9/1/19 U.S. News and World Report: “Asian American Korea War Hero Gives What May Be ‘Final’ Talk”
8/17/19 NPR: Their ‘Tough’ Mom Was Also The Navy’s 1st Asian American Woman Officer
8/9/19 Rafu Shimpo: “Hirono Blasts Trump for Ending Filipino WWII Veteran Parole Program”
Filipino veterans were granted citizenship in recognition of their service to the U.S. during World War II. Many of their children, however, were not. Due to the volume of immigrant visa applications from the Philippines, it can take more than 20 years for families to be reunited.
Under the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program (FWVP) program, the adult children of Filipino World War II veterans, along with their spouses and children under age 21, can finally be together in the U.S. while they await an available immigrant visa.
The Trump Administration terminated the FWVP program.
5/24/19 NBC News: “Since the Civil War, Asian Americans have served in the military with distinction”
3/17/19 Dallas Morning News: “The Hero Next Door: Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi ‘Hershey’ Miyamura”
11/12/18 KRON: “Chinese-American veterans seek recognition”
7/29/18 Nikkei Asian Review: “Asian-Americans’ rise through the US military ranks — in charts”
6/1/18 U.S. Army: “Honoring the service, sacrifice of Asian American and Pacific Islanders”
11/11/17: Buzzfeed News: “These Powerful Photos Capture The Legacy Of Japanese-American WWII Vets”
10/29/17 Sierra Sun Times: “AARP Underwrites 1,000 Congressional Gold Medals for Filipino WWII Veterans”
10/19/17 NextShark: “The Most Decorated Military Unit in U.S. History Was an All-Asian American Battalion”
7/20/17 Seattle Times Magazine: “Western student Jim Okubo went from an ‘enemy alien’ to an American hero. Five Bellingham ‘brothers’ were sent to internment camps after Pearl Harbor. All five joined the Army, but not all came home. Jim Okubo returned a hero. Decades after his death, he was awarded a Medal of Honor.”
By Jayson Jenks
ALMOST NO ONE knew his story, and that’s how he wanted it.
His colleagues, friends, even his children: They knew he had bravely served, but like so many soldiers returning from vast battlefields in Europe and the Pacific, that part of his life he kept to himself.
His name was James K. Okubo, but everyone called him Jim. He grew up in Bellingham, attended college there until he no longer could and joined the Army from an internment camp a week before his 23rd birthday.
7/3/17 Los Angeles Times: “Hiroshi Miyamura and his hometown had a lot in common. They believed in America.”
By Joe Mozingo
Two American soldiers trudged across the war-torn Korean peninsula as winter bore down.
To keep their minds off the cold and hunger, Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura told his new friend, an Italian kid from Boston, about his hometown of Gallup, N.M.
5/25/17 NBC News: “Remembering Hazel Lee, the First Chinese-American Female Military Pilot”
by Lakshmi Gandhi
The way many historians tell it, Hazel Ying Lee decided to become a pilot just moments after her first flight.
The daughter of two business owners who settled in Portland, Oregon, after immigrating from China, Lee took her first flight in 1932, just a few years after graduating from high school. She would become one of the first Chinese-American women to ever earn a pilot’s license later that year.
9/2/16 Honolulu Star Advertiser: “Army’s first 3-star Asian-American general buried at Punchbowl”
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Retired Lt. Gen. Allen Kenji Ono, the Army’s first three-star Asian-American general, was buried with full military honors today at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Ono, 82, died Aug. 1.
6/23/16 NBC News: “‘Giving Back’: Why One Asian-American Woman Is Headed to West Point”
by Chris Fuchs
Iris Yu was seven years old when she told her parents she wanted to join the Army. The family was visiting the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point in upstate New York when Yu saw the army uniform and thought it was cool.
5/4/16 Defense Video : “Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders are Part of Corps’ Fabric”
by Lance Cpl. Shaehmus Sawyer
MCB QUANTICO, Va. — Marines come from many backgrounds, cultures and locations, but as Marines, they use their personal heritages and traditions to strengthen the ranks of the Corps. In May, as the Nation observes Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Marine Corps proudly honors Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders who contributed to its success.
5/3/16 Time Magazine: “The Officer Who Opened the U.S. Navy for Asian-American Women”
by Erin Blakemore
Cuddy recalled that a white male pilot once disobeyed her orders. “Down here,” she told him, “you will shoot when I tell you to shoot.”
Being an Asian Americans during World War II was not easy. Many Japanese-American families were carted off to internment camps like Manzanar, and even for those who weren’t forcibly relocated, the United States was often a harsh, discriminatory place. Which makes the career of Susan Ahn Cuddy, a trailblazing Korean-American U.S. Navy officer, even more surprising.
The Officer Who Opened the U.S. Navy for Asian-American Women
7/18/15 Huffington Post: “Filipino-American World War II veterans who have been waiting for years to bring their family members to the U.S. will soon be able to do so through a new policy,” by Elise Foley
The Obama administration announced the new policy Wednesday. “Many of those veterans are elderly and need family care or company, but their families face long wait times — sometimes more than 20 years — to immigrate to the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security will work with the State Department to create a program that allows certain family members of the veterans to come to the U.S. under parole status on a case-by-case basis, rather than through the general family immigration process.”
8/11/14 NBC News: “U.S. Military Promotes First Vietnamese-American General”
3/6/14 CNN: “Major Kurt Chew-een Lee, Asian-American Marines trailblazer dies at 88”
By Madison Park
(CNN) — Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee, the first Asian-American U.S. Marine Corps officer, rose through
the ranks beginning his career from World War II to the Vietnam War.
During the Korean War, he became commander of a machine gun platoon, to the shock of his men
who had never before seen a person of Chinese ancestry. Some even questioned his loyalty as U.S.
forces were battling Chinese forces, which had joined the conflict on the side of North Koreans.
11/12/13 press release: OCA Salutes the Service of APA Veterans
by Tom Hayashi, Executive Director
Washington, D.C.: OCAAsian Pacific American Advocates, a national membership driven organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APA), salutes the service of Asian Pacific American veterans.
According to the US Census, 1.3 % of the 21.2 million US veterans (275,600) are Asian Pacific Americans. The Department of Defense also reports that Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders constitute 4.4% of the 3.6 million active duty service members.
“We are very proud of the veterans from our community and the service they have provided for our country,” says Sharon M. Wong, OCA President, “It isn’t very well known, but Asian Pacific Americans have fought in every war since The War of 1812, including the Civil War.”
Historical documentation indicates that APAs began to attend U.S. military academies during War World I. However, it was not until War World II that APA service men and women were recognized for their service and valor. Accomplishments of Asian Pacific American veterans include the infamous 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II, the most decorated unit in U.S. history, which was almost completely comprised of Japanese Americans, and the First and Second Filipino American infantry regiments, which were also highly decorated. With the desegregation of the military in 1948, Asian Pacific Americans have served and continue to serve in the United States armed forces.
“We salute the incredible service provided by our men and women in uniform,” says Tom Hayashi, OCA Executive Director, “Their tireless dedication to our country has kept and continues to keep our communities safe. However, we must not forget the Asian Pacific American veterans who have fought under the American flag and have yet to be recognized as American war heroes, such as the Hmong. On this day, OCA honors all Asian Pacific American veterans, regardless of official recognition.”
OCA has honored a number of prominent APA veterans, including the late Senator Daniel Inouye; Major Kurt Lee (Ret.); Major General Antonio Taguba (Ret.), well known for his role as the principle investigator of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility; Former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense Bel Leong-Hong; and General Eric Shinseki (Ret.), who currently serves as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
6/27/13 NPR: Rep. Tammy Duckworth Dresses Down IRS Contractor
by Eyder Peralta
It is one of those rare Congressional exchanges that’s both dramatic and compelling:
Yesterday during a House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost her legs and use of her right arm when she served in Iraq, dressed down an IRS contractor who used his military disability status to receive government contracts reserved for disabled vets.
The catch? Braulio Castillo claimed disability based on an injury he sustained at the U.S. Military Preparatory School nearly 30 years ago. The Times reports that Castillo broke his foot at the prep school, but went on to play football in college.
Duckworth pounced. It’s worth watching the whole thing:
5/20/13 San Antonio Express-News: “Asian-Pacific Americans are an integral part of
American military story”
by Major General M. Ted Wong
Asian-Pacific Americans are an integral part of the American military story. Despite facing the challenges of discrimination, language barriers and cultural differences; Asian-Pacific Americans’ military service and patriotism have left their mark on U.S. history since the Civil War.
3/6/13 Air Force News Service: “Hazel Ying Lee: Showcased Asian-American involvement in war effort”
by Martha Lockwood
Fort Meade, Md. (AFNS) — The Asian and Pacific island influence for the Air Force began during the
early days of World War II when Chinese-American women were recruited to serve in the “Air WACs,”
a special unit within the Army Air Corps where Asian-American women served in jobs that ranged from
aerial photo interpretation, to air traffic control and weather forecasting.
The Women in Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) worked directly with the Army Air Forces during
World War II, ferrying planes from factories to air bases, testing planes, and towing targets for aerial
gunnery students to practice shooting. They also conducted qualifying flights for military pilots to renew
their instrument ratings and copiloted B-17 Flying Fortress bombers through mock dogfights staged
to train bomber gunners.
Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese-American woman aviator, was also the first Chinese-American
woman to fly for the United States military. She joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots and was
trained to ferry aircraft. She delivered transport aircraft, but she also flew more powerful fighters, such
as the P-63 Kingcobra, to their destinations. Hazel and her husband were the embodiment of the
relationship that the United States shared with our allies, especially during World War II. He was an
officer in the Chinese Air Force.
Whether it was an homage to her Asian ancestry, or simply a practice that gave her comfort, Hazel
“named” each plane prior to its delivery flight by inscribing Chinese characters in lipstick on the tails
of the planes.
It was during one of these ferrying details that Lee, described by her fellow pilots as “calm and
fearless,” had the first of two forced landings. It took place in a Kansas wheat field. A farmer, pitchfork
in hand, chased her around the plane while shouting to his neighbors that the Japanese had invaded
Kansas. (Hazel was Chinese.) Alternately running and ducking under her wing, Lee finally stood her
ground. She told the farmer who she was, and demanded that he put down the pitchfork. He complied.
Sadly, she was killed in the line of duty ferrying the P-63, the last WASP to die in service to her
country. She was killed when her plane and that of a colleague received identical instructions from an
air traffic controller on their approach to Great Falls AFB, Montana.
There’s an Asian saying, “No strength within; no respect without.” It’s that inner strength that defines
the women of the Air Force.
2/3/13 Asian Fortune News: “Japanese American Veterans Honored”
New Orleans, LA: To spread the story of Japanese-American veterans, the Congressional Gold Medal that was collectively given to Japanese Americans who served in World War II is on a yearlong tour, starting Jan. 11 at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Irene Hirano Inouye, widow of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, attended the opening ceremony.
The Smithsonian Institution organized the tour in partnership with the National Veterans Network, a coalition of Japanese American civic organizations. The medal will travel to seven cities until it comes back to Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
12/20/12 press release: “As Last of Eight Anti-Asian Military Hazing Trials Conclude, Asian American Civil Rights Groups Continue to Seek Reforms,”
Washington, DC.: This week brought to a close the last of eight courts-martial of soldiers charged in connection with the death of Army Private Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Chinese American from Manhattan, who died in Afghanistan in October 2011 of non-combat injuries following weeks of bullying and abuse by superiors in his unit.
OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans, and the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice continue to seek policy reforms that would strengthen and protect all service members from such abuse.
On Monday, the prosecution in the case against First Lieutenant Daniel Schwartz – Pvt. Chen’s platoon leader – accepted the defense’s request for non-judicial punishment.
Such a deal avoids trial and results in the formal charges related to Chen’s hazing and maltreatment being withdrawn. Schwartz will now be separated from the Army through an administrative process.
“There have been too many cases of military hazing, and we must have reforms that protect those vulnerable to hazing in our armed forces,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of AAJC. “Policy makers must act on the lessons learned from these tragedies to implement policies that are strong, comprehensive, and that send a clear message that harassment and abuse of service members will be met with serious
Schwartz’s punishment follows seven courts-martial of other members of the unit that included convictions of maltreatment, hazing, dereliction of duty and assault. Punishments ranged from demotions in rank, forfeited pay, restricted hard labor and short jail sentences (up to six months). Only one soldier received a discharge for bad conduct.
“Such punishments are too light and reflect a significant void in our military justice system,” said Tom Hayashi, executive director of OCA. “New legislative regulations on hazing can help ensure the safety of all men and women in uniform.”
U.S. House and Senate conference committee members will soon send a reconciled version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense budget bill, to the full Congress that contains provisions that address the prevalence of hazing and the need for prevention policies through the requirement of a military report to Congress and anonymous reporting.
12/17/12 Reuters: “U.S. Army soldier faces discharge after Asian-American soldier’s hazing,”
By Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) – The leader of a platoon whose members were accused of hazing an Asian-American soldier
who killed himself in Afghanistan has been punished and will be discharged from the U.S. Army, officials
said on Monday.
First Lieutenant Daniel Schwartz was the highest ranking of eight soldiers charged in connection with
19-year-old Private Danny Chen’s suicide and the last to have his case resolved.
Chen, the only Chinese-American in his unit, fatally shot himself in a guard tower in southern Afghanistan
in October 2011 after enduring weeks of disparaging taunts and physical mistreatment from his superiors,
military prosecutors said.
Members of the platoon were accused of calling him racially derogatory names such as “gook,” “slants”
and “egg roll.” Prosecutors said they threw rocks at him, dragged him across gravel and tied sandbags to
his arms at the remote combat outpost where Chen began his first deployment in August 2011.
His death prompted activists to call for more protections against abuse for Asian-American service
members, who make up 4 percent of the active-duty U.S. military.
Schwartz, who faced dereliction of duty charges, was punished through an Article 15 administrative
proceeding that was not open to the public, officials at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said on Monday.
Details of his punishment were not released. As part of the disposition, the charges against him were
withdrawn, officials said.
He will leave the Army, though a decision has not yet been made about whether his discharge will be
honorable or dishonorable, said Fort Bragg spokesman Ben Abel.
Other soldiers accused in the case received an array of punishments after being found guilty earlier
this year on charges such as maltreatment, assault, hazing and dereliction of duty. The most jail time
received was six months.
Sentences included reduced ranks, forfeited pay, hard labor and short jail sentences. Only one soldier
was discharged for bad conduct, a point of frustration for Chen’s parents and supporters.
Danny Chen was the only child of Chinese immigrants who live in New York City.
11/28/12 press release: “Asian American Groups Extremely Disappointed Following Light Sentencing
in Military Hazing Case,”
Washington, D.C.: The Organization of Chinese-Americans (OCA), a national organization dedicated
to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), and the
Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice,
are extremely disappointed with the recent verdict and sentencing in the court-martial of U.S. Army Staff
Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel, who faced charges related to his mistreatment of Pvt. Danny Chen. Chen,
a 19-year-old Chinese American from Manhattan, died in Afghanistan in October 2011 of non-combat
injuries following weeks of bullying and abuse by superiors in his unit.
Last week a military jury found Van Bockel guilty of hazing, three charges of dereliction of duty and
two charges of maltreatment. Despite the potential maximum punishment of four years and nine months
in prison and a dishonorable discharge, Van Bockel was only sentenced to a reprimand, a demotion
in two ranks to Specialist and 60 days of hard labor “already credited” with no jail time, and can
continue serving in the Army.
“Our community is truly shocked and saddened by the lack of accountability that has emerged from
this trial,” said Tom Hayashi, executive director of OCA. “The gross negligence of Staff Sgt. Van
Bockel was simply unacceptable and the sentencing is a disgrace to our military’s values. This trial is
a strong indication that we must push for stronger reforms in our advocacy efforts.”
Van Bockel, considered the “ring leader” of the inappropriate behavior, failed to prevent harassment
and abuse from Chen’s other superiors. These actions included racial slurs, rock throwing, kicking,
and dragging him along rocks. Van Bockel taunted Chen with racial slurs such as, “Dragon Lady” and
“Fortune Cookie” and ordered him to shout orders in Chinese to his own English-speaking platoon for
no other reason than humiliation.
“The tragic mistreatment of Pvt. Chen merits much more severe consequences than the ones that
have thus far been handed down to Staff Sgt. Van Bockel and others in their unit,” said Mee Moua,
president and executive director of AAJC. “These sentences fail to deter the kind of treatment that
cost Danny his life and send a weak message about the level of accountability and leadership to
which soldiers at their levels will be held.”
Prior to Van Bockel’s court-martial, six other soldiers have been convicted on hazing, maltreatment
or dereliction of duty charges in connection with Chen’s death.
“These consistently light punishments are eerily similar to the outcome of the Vincent Chin case
more than 30 years ago, in which Chin’s killers served no jail time and merely received a fine,
galvanizing the Asian American civil rights movement,” continued Moua.
“We will continue to fight for what is right,” said Hayashi. “There will be justice for Pvt. Danny Chen.”
11/20/12 Fayetteville (NC) Observer: “Staff Sgt. Andrew VanBockel receives reprimand, reduction in
rank in Danny Chen suicide case”
By Drew Brooks
Staff Sgt. Andrew J. VanBockel will be demoted, reprimanded and forced to perform hard labor for his role in the hazing of Pvt. Danny Chen.
VanBockel, 27, of Aberdeen, S.D., was sentenced Wednesday after a jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before deciding he should be rebuked, lose two ranks and perform 60 days of hard labor.
8/13/12 New York Daily News: “Soldier on trial in Pvt. Danny Chen case pleads guilty, booted from Army,”
by Daniel Beekman
The second soldier to go on trial for driving New York Pvt. Danny Chen to suicide was sentenced Monday to six months in prison and booted from the Army on a bad-conduct discharge.
A military judge handed down the ruling at Fort Bragg, N.C. after Spc. Ryan Offutt pleaded guilty to hazing and maltreatment for mocking Chen, who shot himself last year in Afghanistan.
Offutt, 32, was accused of calling Chen “chink,” “gook,” “squint eyes,” “egg roll” and “fortune cookie,” and kicking and throwing rocks at the slender Chinatown native.
8/3/12 New York Times: “Military Hazing Has Got to Stop,”
by Judy Chu
Last fall, at an outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Army private, was singled
out for hazing by Sgt. Adam Holcomb and five other soldiers, all of whom were senior in rank to their victim.
They believed Danny was a weak soldier, someone who fell asleep on guard duty, who forgot his helmet.
So for six weeks, they dispensed “corrective training” that violated Army policy. When he failed to turn off
the water pump in the shower, he was dragged across a gravel yard on his back until it bled. They threw
rocks at him to simulate artillery. They called him “dragon lady,” “gook” and “chink.”
Finally, Danny could take it no longer. He put the barrel of his rifle to his chin and pulled the trigger.
The pain was over.
8/2/12 press release: “Asian American Civil Rights Groups Angered by Acquittal and Lenient
Sentence in Military Hazing Case,”
Washington, D.C.: OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and
economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), is deeply angered and concerned with the
acquittal and lenient sentence in the military hazing case against Sergeant Adam M. Holcomb, one of
the eight soldiers charged in the hazing and death of Private Danny Chen.
In May 2012, OCA and the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), a member of the Asian
American Center for Advancing Justice, partnered together to seek justice for Private Chen. The
current scope of work is divided between the organizations as follows:
– The OCA-New York chapter leads the grassroots advocacy efforts related to the Danny Chen case
as well as the larger reforms that requires pressuring Congress and Department of Defense,
specifically with the Army.
– OCA National Center leads on the efforts to engage with the Department of Defense, specifically
with the Army, as well as the development of broader coalition efforts.
– AAJC seeks to develop legislative strategies to push for policy reforms.
On Monday, a jury acquitted Sergeant Adam M. Holcomb – one of eight soldiers charged in the hazing
and death of Pvt. Danny Chen – of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat
and violations of a military statute that prohibits hazing. Based on the jury’s recommendation, Sgt. Holcomb,
who was convicted of two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault consummated by battery, may
only receive a sentence of 30 days in prison, reduction of one rank, to specialist, and a fine of $1,181.55.
Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the
Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, Tom Hayashi, Executive Director of OCA, and Elizabeth
OuYang, OCA-NY President, issued the following statement.
“The verdict and sentencing recommendation in this case fly in the face of civil and human rights. It is
absolutely appalling that following a campaign of humiliation due to anti-Asian bias by Sgt. Holcomb and
others that led to Pvt. Chen’s death last October, the jury would not only acquit Sgt. Holcomb of these
serious charges, but recommend such a lenient sentence for his actions against Pvt. Chen. And it is
quite disturbing that despite his conviction for maltreatment and assault, Sgt. Holcomb will be able
to continue to serve honorably in the military, an honor he does not deserve.
Today’s verdict is reminiscent of the Vincent Chin case more than 30 years ago, in which his killers
served no jail time and merely received a fine for taking Chin’s life. There was no justice for Chin and today
there was no justice for Pvt. Chen, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew or the many other victims of military hazing.
The slap on the wrist for Sgt. Holcomb clearly demonstrates that these types of actions are acceptable
in the military culture. As long as there is no clear definition of hazing that is punishable under military
regulations, there will be future miscarriages of justice for victims like Pvt. Chen.
As a nation, we must come together and demand that Congress and all branches of the military adopt
stronger policies to deter and address all forms of hazing, harassment and abuse in our military. There
must be a zero-tolerance policy.
– A clear definition of “hazing” that is punishable under military regulations.
– Stronger accountability up and down the chain of command.
– Stiffer punishment for failure to report harassment and abuse.
– Protections for victims and whistle blowers of harassment and abuse.
– Mandatory diversity training and inclusion practices to promote more diversity within leadership positions.
– A comprehensive record-keeping system on reports of harassment and abuse.
Six more trials and one more sentencing remain. We fully expect appropriate punishment that reflects
that Pvt. Chen’s life was not in vain. We will continue to fight for justice and work to ensure protection for
our military members.”
# # #
The Asian American Justice Center (www.advancingequality.org), a member of Asian American Center
for Advancing Justice, works closely with its affiliate organizations – the Asian American Institute in Chicago
(www.aaichicago.org), the Asian Law Caucus (www.asianlawcaucus.org) in San Francisco and the Asian
Pacific American Legal Center (www.apalc.org) in Los Angeles – to promote a fair and equitable society
for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and
other underserved communities.
OCA is a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social and economic well-being of
Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).
“Happy Independence Day: A Story About Becoming An American,”
by Ken White
One hot summer in the early nineties, I was working as a summer extern for Judge Ronald S.W. Lew,
a federal judge in Los Angeles. On a late morning in early July he abruptly walked into my office and
said without preamble “Get your coat.” Somewhat concerned that I was about to be shown the door,
I grabbed my blazer and followed him out of chambers into the hallway. I saw he had already
assembled his two law clerks and his other summer extern there. Exchanging puzzled glances, we
followed him into the art-deco judge’s elevator in the old federal courthouse, then into the cavernous
judicial parking garage. He piled us into his spotless Cadillac and drove out of the garage without
Within ten awkward, quiet minutes we arrived at one of the largest VFW posts in Los Angeles.
Great throngs of people, dressed in Sunday best, were filing into the building. It was clear that they
were families – babes in arms, small children running about, young and middle-aged parents.
And in each family group there was a man – an elderly man, dressed in a military uniform, many
stooped with age but all with the bearing of men who belonged in that VFW hall. They were all, I would
learn later, Filipinos. Their children and grandchildren were Filipino-American; they were not. Yet.
Judge Lew – the first Chinese-American district court judge in the continental United States – pulled his robe from the trunk and walked briskly into the VFW hall with his externs and clerks trailing
behind him. We paused in the foyer as he introduced us to some of the VFW officers, who greeted
him warmly. He donned his robe and peered through a window in a door to see hundreds of people
sitting in the main hall, talking excitedly, the children waving small American flags and streamers about.
One of the VFW officers whispered in his ear, and he nodded and said “I’ll see them first.” The clerks
and my fellow extern were chatting to some INS officials. The judge beckoned me, and I followed him
through a doorway to a small anteroom.
There, in a dark and baroque room, we found eight elderly men. They were too infirm to stand.
Three were on stretchers, several were in wheelchairs, two had oxygen tanks. One had an empty
sleeve where his right arm had been. A few relatives, beaming, stood near each man. One by one,
Judge Lew administered the naturalization oath to them closely, sometimes touching their hands,
speaking loudly so they could hear him, like a priest administering extreme unction. They smiled,
grasped his hand, spoke the oath as loudly as they could with evident pride. Some wept. I may have
as well. One said, not with anger but with the tone of a dream finally realized, “We’ve waited so long
And oh, how they had waited. These men, born Filipinos, answered America’s call in World War II
and fought for us. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the men of the Philippines to fight, promising
them United States citizenship and veterans benefits in return. 200,000 fought. Tens of thousands
died. They weathered the brutal conditions under Japanese occupation, fought a valiant guerrilla war,
and in some cases survived the Bataan death march.
In 1946, Congress reneged on FDR’s promise. Filipino solders who fought for us and their families
were not given their promised citizenship, let alone benefits. Many came here anyway, had children
who were born U.S. citizens, and some even became citizens through the process available to any
immigrant. But many others, remembering the promise, asked that it be kept. And they waited.
They waited 54 years, until after most of them were gone. It was not until 1990 that Congress finally
addressed this particular stain on our honor and granted them citizenship. (They never received their
promised benefits, and never will. Some received lump sum payments of up to $15,000 in 2009 under
the unpopular stimulus bill, some 68 years after more complete benefits were promised. Most of the
happy men I saw that day 20 years ago are dead.)
Hence this July naturalization ceremony. After Judge Lew naturalized the veterans who were too
weak to stand in the main ceremony, he quickly took the stage in the main room. A frantic, joyous hush
descended, and the dozens of veterans stood up and took the oath. Many wept. I kept getting
something in my goddamn eye. And when Judge Lew declared them citizens, the families whooped
and hugged their fathers and grandfathers and the children waved the little flags like maniacs.
I had the opportunity to congratulate a number of families and hear them greet Judge Lew. I heard
expressions of great satisfaction. I heard more comments about how long they had waited. But I did
not hear bitterness on this day. These men and their children had good cause to be bitter, and perhaps
on other days they indulged in it. On this day they were proud to be Americans at last. Without
forgetting the wrongs that had been done to them, they believed in an America that was more than the
sum of its wrongs. Without forgetting 54 years of injustice, they believed in an America that had the
potential to transcend its injustices. I don’t know if these men forgave the Congress that betrayed
them and dishonored their service in 1946, or the subsequent Congresses and administrations too
weak or indifferent to remedy that wrong. I don’t think that I could expect them to do so. But whether or
not they forgave the sins of America, they loved the sinner, and were obviously very proud to become
I am tremendously grateful to Judge Lew for taking me to that ceremony, and count myself privileged
to have seen it. I think about it every Fourth of July, and more often than that. It reminds me that people
have experienced far greater injustice than I ever will at this country’s hands, and yet are proud of it
and determined to be part of it. They are moved by what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature
to believe in the shared idea of what America should be without abandoning the struggle to right its
wrongs. I want to be one of them.
4/11/12 New York Times: “Any Trial in Soldier’s Death Would Be at Fort Bragg,”
By Kirk Semple
Trials of the service members implicated in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, the soldier from Manhattan
who apparently killed himself last fall in Afghanistan, will be held at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, if senior
military officials decide courts-martial are warranted, the American military said Wednesday.
2/21/12 Washington Post: “Asian American soldier’s suicide called a “wake-up call” for the military,”
By Deepti Hajela
New York: The harassment of Danny Chen, 19, started in basic training – teasing about his name,
repeated questions of whether he was from China, even though he was a born-and-raised New Yorker.
He wrote in his journal that he was running out of jokes to respond with.
1/31/12 MSNBC: “Marine gets 30 days in hazing case linked to suicide”
Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii ï¿½ A Marine accused of hazing a colleague who later committed suicide in
Afghanistan was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail and a reduction in rank.
Navy Capt. Carrie Stephens, the judge in Lance Cpl. Jacob Jacoby’s special court-martial, handed
down the sentence after Jacoby pleaded guilty to assault.
1/6/12 New York Times: “An Asian-American Veteran Reflects on When Discipline Becomes Hazing,”
by Tim Hsia
The deaths of Army Private Danny Chen and Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew have sent shock
waves through Asian-American communities. Eight U.S. Army service members have been charged
with hazing-related crimes against Private Chen, a Chinese-American soldier and, like me, the son
of Chinese immigrants.
The circumstances surrounding Private Chenï¿½s death have raised many issues in my mind such
as the line between hazing and discipline, and the perceptions of Asian-Americans toward military
12/21/11 New York Times: “8 Charged in Death of Fellow Soldier, U.S. Army Says,”
By Kirk Semple
Eight American soldiers were charged with manslaughter and an array of other crimes in connection
with the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, a fellow soldier from New York whose body was found in October
lying in a guard tower in southern Afghanistan, the United States Army said in a statement Wednesday.
11/29/11 press release: “Veteran shares life lessons, experiences from years of military service,”
“Yellow Green Beret: Stories of an Asian-American Stumbling Around U.S. Army Special Forces”
by Chester Wong relates his memories from his time in the military
Cupertino, Calif. — In “Yellow Green Beret: Stories of an Asian-American Stumbling Around U.S. Army
Special Forces” (ISBN 146352949X), Chester Wong shares his experiences in the U.S. Army in a unique
balance of serious and lighthearted memories. Written for civilians with an interest in the Army, Wong hopes
to portray soldiers as normal human beings rather than the robotic machines that people often misjudge
them to be.
Wong recounts his memories as an Asian-American in the U.S. Army Special Forces through a series
of short stories. Some of the stories are intentionally humorous, showing the author as the butt of his jokes,
while others are more dramatic, revealing a life lesson that Wong learned or observed along the way
After spending 12 years in the Army, Wong struggled to make the transformation from military life to
civilian life. He wrote a blog about his experiences to cope with his feelings, and his family encouraged
him to keep writing, which inspired this record of war stories and actually aided him in moving forward.
“I hope that these stories are not only entertaining but also provide color and personality to a Special
Forces operator, and illustrate him as a human being more than just some kind of professionally trained
killer,” Wong says.
Wong believes his book will also shed a unique light on military service from the perspective of an
Asian-American. He hopes that “Yellow Green Beret” helps readers look at military personnel differently,
while providing them with lighthearted yet important life lessons along the way.
“Yellow Green Beret: Stories of an Asian American Stumbling Around U.S. Army Special Forces” is
available for sale online at Amazon.com and other channels.
About the Author: After growing up in Northern California, Chester Wong attended the United States
Military Academy at West Point, and served in the United States Army for more than eight years as an
Armor and Special Forces officer. He served and was deployed in four combat tours to Iraq and the
Philippines, and received several medals for his accomplishments.
9/9/11 press release: Senator Inouye Introduces Legislation To Fund National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero
Washington: Senator Daniel K. Inouye introduced legislation today to provide federal funds for the operation and maintenance of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero.
The legislation allows the United States, through the Secretary of the Interior, to take ownership of the lands, the Memorial and the Museum, after the appropriate approvals are secured from the Governor of the State of New York, the Governor of the State of New Jersey, and the Mayor of New York City.
The Department of the Interior will enter into a cooperative agreement with the Board of the non-profit National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, Inc., which may provide technical and financial assistance to the Memorial and Museum relating to its operations and maintenance.
The legislation would authorize appropriations of $20 million in FY 2013, the first full fiscal year after which the Museum is scheduled to open to the public, and in subsequent years.
All funds appropriated must be matched by non-Federal sources, such as admission fees, gifts and fundraising, with the resulting Federal share being about 33% or less of the overall budget of the Memorial and Museum.
“I thank Senator Inouye for his support of the memorial and his leadership on this issue. Millions of people from across the country and around the world will come to visit the memorial. It is truly a national monument in New York and I appreciate the Senator’s work to bring federal support to help ensure all who want to come and visit the memorial can for generations to come,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“The 9/11 Memorial is for our city, the nation, and the world. Senator Inouye’s legislation is an important part of securing the legacy of 9/11. We hope that Congress will come together in the same spirit of unity that we saw in the aftermath of the attacks to support the Memorial. This tribute ensures that future generations will understand the enormous loss suffered, the sacrifices made, and the resilience that defined our nation’s response to the attacks,” said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Chair of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum
“We are grateful to Senator Inouye for his leadership in supporting one of our nation’s most sacred sites: the National September 11 Memorial. With the support of Congress, we as a country can fulfill our obligation to never forget and to preserve the history of 9/11 and our country’s response in the aftermath,” said Joe Daniels, President and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
9/12/11 New York Daily News: “Chinese immigrant Vietnam War vet Fang Wong becomes head of
American Legion veterans association,”
BY Daniel Beekman
When Fang Wong left Hong Kong as a kid to live and toil in a Harlem Laundromat 50 years ago, he never dreamed he’d become the most important veterans’ advocate in the United States.
But on Sept. 1, the Chinese immigrant was elected National Commander of the American Legion, a mutual aid organization 2.4 million-vets strong.
“I feel humble and honored,” said Wong, 63, a gray-haired Vietnam vet with an easy smile. “I really don’t feel different. I’m still me – I want to do my utmost to help however I can.”
8/30/11 ourchinatown.org: “Since 1940s, Chinese-American Veterans Supports Their Own and
by Shirley Lew
Gabe Mui, Adjutant of the Lt. B.R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291, The American Legion in
Chinatown is in his office when we met. As an adjutant, Mui is a staff officer assisting a higher-ranking
officer in administrative affairs. His position is similar to a director, managing a local chapter under the
affairs of American Legion’s state department, which is overseen by its headquarters in Indiana.
Born in China, Mui was stationed in Germany as a transportation specialist during the Vietnam War,
though he was never in combat. His office is filled with file cabinets, books, papers and more, most likely
a collection of his predecessors.
Fang A. Wong for National Commander
4/20/11 Voice of America
“Historian Recounts Role of Chinese Americans Who Fought In US Civil War,”
by Dave DeForest
Many people would be surprised to know that there were some Asian faces in the crowds of white and
black soldiers serving in the American Civil War.
The participation of Asians, and in particular Chinese Americans, comes into focus this month as the
United States marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the war.
It began in 1861 after the election of an anti-slavery president, Abraham Lincoln. Fearing the eventual
abolition of slavery, eleven southern states bolted from the union, setting up the pro-slavery Confederate
States of America.
The rebels resisted military efforts by the North to bring them back into the union, sparking four years
of war that left more than 600,000 people dead.
Even though there were only about 200 Chinese-Americans living in the eastern United States at the
time, 58 of them fought in the Civil War. Because of their previous experiences at sea, many of them
served in the U.S. Navy.
Only one Chinese-American soldier was actually born on American soil. The rest had come to the
U.S. through the Pacific slave trade, adoption by Americans, independent immigration or the influence
8/23/11 Sacramento Bee: “Taiwan to honor Locke native for WWII heroism,”
By Stephen Magagnini
Today, 67 years after Capt. William Chow King – a Chinese American from Locke – rescued his flight commander in China from a swarm of eight Japanese fighter planes, the Taiwanese government will give his widow Ruby Chann two long-overdue medals.
One of the elite Flying Tigers – an all-volunteer force of U.S. flyers battling the Japanese – the easygoing King died Jan. 1, 2002 at 86, planning to take his war secrets with him.
4/19/11 Voice of America: “Historian Recounts Role of Chinese Americans Who Fought in US Civil War”
Many people would be surprised to know that there were some Asian faces in the crowds of white and black soldiers serving in the American Civil War.
2/1/11 AsianWeek: “Chinese American Hero: Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee,”
By Michael Robison
Chinese American Heroes and American Legion Cathay Post 384 honors the United States Marine Corps and their heroism at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, in particular that of then 1st Lieutenant Kurt Chew-Een Lee.
Lee holds the distinction of being the first regular Marine Corps officer of Asian descent in nearly 200 years of proud Marine Corps history. He accepted the challenges and demands to prove his fitness to hold officer rank and to lead U.S. Marines into battle. Major Lee undertook a self-imposed mission to consciously demolish the fallacious thinking spread by Hollywood movies that the Chinese, as a race, are too meek, obsequious and subservient to make good soldiers. By distinguishing himself as an effective, fearless leader in battle under the harshest of combat conditions, he opened the Marine Corps towards accepting more racial minorities into its officer ranks.
1/13/11 Northwest Asian Weekly: “Jimmy Locke: Veteran, husband, father, and businessman,”
Jimmy Locke, born Youh K. Locke, passed away on Jan. 5 in Seattle.
Locke was born on Oct. 15, 1917, in Taishan, Guangdong Province, China. He was born into a family of 10 children. He immigrated to Seattle at age 13 with his father and brother.
He served as staff sergeant in the Fifth Armored Division during WWII. He saw action in the battles of Ardennes, Normandy Beach, and the Rhineland.
“I was drafted before Pearl Harbor in 1940,” Locke wrote in “Reflections of Seattle’s Chinese Americans,” a Chinese oral history book. “When you’re drafted, you have to tell what you do. I said I’m a cook, so they put me in the kitchen.
“We eat good, I’ll tell you that! Steak all the time.”