Fang Wong, American Legion Vice Commander
BY J. LEE
AAP staff writer
Representing over 2.4 million American Legion members who served in the military including those with veteran status, about 10,000 Legionnaires, Auxiliary members who were mostly spouses, Sons of the American Legion, other family members and relatives, guests, supporters and many highest level dignitaries came together for the National American Legion Convention at the Minneapolis Convention August 26-September 1, 2011.
American Legion members came from all 50 states and several continents. Countries represented included China, Southeast Asia, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Latin America, Mexico, Canada, Germany, France, Greece, and other countries in Europe
Inducted the last day, the first Asian American Legion National Commander Fang Wong spent 28 months, and money comparable to campaigns of a person running for U.S. President or a highly contested Congressional office. His campaign required traveling 140,000 miles to every state and Posts outside the United States to gain the votes in every state, country and territory. Last day elections were confirmations.
The first Asian American and immigrant, Fang Wong quickly rose through the ranks of leadership on the various committees and commissions, spending countless hours of volunteering and donating on the path to becoming a National Commander. Fang Wong’s elections had thousands of supporters from every state and country present in a parade that opened with Dragon and Color Guard, and several hundred piece band.
The largest Asian membership was New York with over 600 Asians members, the California Cathay Post in California Cathay Post was second largest, and Asians from other states joined in solidarity.
Emigrating from Canton, China, new National Commander Fang Wong was seen as outstanding, a learner who used his knowledge to improve the American Legion and provide solutions, having integrity and character, being humble and appreciative, inspiring others, having vision, being patriotic, showing unwavering commitment, and dedicated to others and providing selfless service.
Receiving numerous awards over the years, and holding many Chairman and Commander positions in the organization, the National American Legion felt he was prepared to be National Commander.
In his first address, Fang Wong thanked a list of people who mentored him and helped him through the years to where he was now. With wisdom, Fang Wong said we may “out grow our body, but not our mind and hearts” and that we must “never let government forget their responsibility for those who served the nation in defense of freedom.”
To fellow Vietnam veterans who are the largest group of members in the American Legion, he said “Welcome home.”
Headliner President Barack Obama spoke on passage of the post 9/11 GI Bill and $1.4 billion of funding for the veterans. Stating that “in hard times, America doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up, and there’s nothing we can’t achieve”, he referred to his work on speeding up legislation for jobs and reducing the deficit.
There were 5 million who volunteered to serve, knowing they would be in harm’s way during the 9/11 decade. President Obama spoke of the “new immigrants who are new citizens, women having to prove themselves, men and women succeeding together as one American team.”
Supporting U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, President Obama spoke of using life-time “E-records”, web-based data and sharing with providers, paperless systems, and reducing the backlog of benefit claims. He said they “will not rest until it gets done.”
Senator Klobuchar claimed Minnesota was “a State who wraps their arms around those who serve us.” She promised to “give them resources to carry out their mission, support their families and support them when they come back.” Her commitment included “jobs, healthcare, housing, and education benefits”, and that there shouldn’t be a waiting line for that.
Speaking for rural veterans too, Senator Al Franken said that they “should have access to healthcare and not be required to be within 5 miles of a Veterans Administration medical center.” He too committed to “giving them everything needed” including “jobs and education so they could earn a good living and buy a home.” Senator Franken said it was “his job to do this” and that he wanted to “work with us to help them get what they deserve.”
APAHC’s 2009 initiative related to this did not get Congressional funds in 2010, but Senator Franken was the only Congressional member who responded and did more than talk about the issues.
Congressman Keith Ellison said that America “owes them for the rights we enjoy”, because “freedom is not free”, but comes at the price of the “blood, sweat and tears of veterans”. Tying into the “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” program, he said he was working for “veterans’ benefits as entitlement” that included spouses in education, jobs and support. Congressman Ellison claimed that “we can count on him to help them rebuild their lives.”
General Chun-Taek Park, Korea’s Vice Chairman of the Korean Veterans, fmr. Chief of Staff R.O.K. Air Force thanked the United States for helping Korea and invited them Korea for the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War. He said they are committed to “preserving peace and democracy” and have “helped the United States in Iraq and Haiti.”
General Jing-ling Tseng, Minister of Veterans Affairs Commission, Republic of China (ROC) spoke of their helping 580,000 veterans and families with housing, medical care, education and jobs, and pursing peace, freedom and democracy. He said President Barak Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supports joint representation between China and Taiwan in the world organizations.
General Tseng “very humbly ask the American Legion to pass a resolution telling Congress of the Taiwan Act and need for weapons reduction.”