A special visitor
Nearly 75 American Legion members representing the nine posts in Faribault County gathered in Blue Earth last Tuesday morning to welcome a special guest.
The national commander of the American Legion, Fang A. Wong, was making a stop in Blue Earth to share breakfast and information with local Legion members.
“This is a tremendous honor for the Blue Earth Legion Post and all of the posts in the county,” Blue Earth Post commander Gary Agren says. “We are thrilled to have this many Legion members show up to meet and greet Commander Wong.”
This is the third visit to Minnesota for the national commander, who was elected to the post at a convention in St. Paul.
Wong is a Vietnam War veteran, serving over 25 months in a combat zone.
The national commander was born in China and became a U.S. citizen as a 12-year-old in 1960.
Blue Earth resident and Legion member Jim Phipps served in China in the 1950s and showed Commander Wong his souvenir Chinese flag.
He also greeted the commander by speaking Chinese phrases he learned while serving there – over 60 years ago.
“I had a little troubleunderstanding it,” Wong says. “But it is amazing to me that he learned to speak Chinese four years before I was born.”
Wong saluted the veterans present and for their service in various wars.
“You are the Greatest Generation,” Wong told the World War II veterans present.
He also told them that if it was not for their service in China he would not have been born.
“Without you, the national commander would not be here speaking to you now,” he says. “My father was in the U.S. but served in China and so here I am.”
Wong says he never met his father until he was 12 years old and moved to the U.S.
The commander also praised Korean War veterans, calling them the forgotten war veterans.
“Maybe not all people remember your service in Korea,” he says. “But the people of South Korea still do.”
He says he visited Korea six months ago and the people still expressed thanks for what American soldiers did there.
Wong, himself a Vietnam vet, expressed thanks for all the servicemen who were there, and officially welcomed them home.
“We may not have been thanked for our service at the time,” he says. “But it was not the soldier who failed in Vietnam, it was the U.S. government and the Congress who did not continue to fund the war. They lost the war, not us. We did our job.”
He told of being asked to participate in a ticker tape parade in New York in 1990 for returning Gulf War vets.
“They invited Vietnam vets to be in it,” he recalls. “We may have marched at the end of the parade, but I got my welcome home parade.”
Wong was happy to see some younger veterans who were present at the breakfast.
“You who are serving in Iraq, Desert Storm, the Gulf War and Afghanistan are the next Greatest Generation,” he says.
The commander, who made a recent five-day trip to Afghanistan, told a story of soldiers there who were concerned about veterans benefits being continued by the government.
“I felt humbled to learn they were not concerned about their own benefits, but rather the benefits continuing for future soldiers,” he says. “They are worried about the next generation of soldier. They wonder who will serve the country in the future.”
Wong says the American Legion serves 2.4 million veterans and has been in existence for 93 years. There are 14,000 Legion posts across America.
Wong served in the Army until 1989 and retired as a chief warrant officer. He worked for a company developing software for the Army, retiring last year.
He is a member of the Chinatown Post in New York City and he and his wife, Barbara, reside in New Jersey.
After his speech, the national commander handed out post awards and posed for photos with various Legion Post members in the county.
Wong and other American Legion officers traveling with him were making a four-day swing through Minnesota.
After leaving Blue Earth, he was headed to Marshall for a lunch meeting and on to Morris for dinner.