The Adjutant’s Report
60th Anniversary (2001 – 2005)
By Fang A. Wong
It’s hard to believe I have served as Adjutant for over eight years. In 1997, when I was asked to assume the responsibilities of Acting Adjutant from then Acting Adjutant PPC John F. Lee, in my wildest dream, I never thought I’d be still here in the year 2005.
When we celebrated our 55th Anniversary in 2000 with a special journal; it was an honor for me to take part and report on the State of the Post. Likewise, it’s my duty and honor again to submit the State of the Post report with the highlights of the past five years. There were many events that led to changes over the past five years – some subtle, some drastic, some internal, some external, some were sad, some were good, and some were great.
The saddest moment obviously was the 9-11 tragedy. Since the Post and the Chinatown community were located so close to Ground-Zero. We witnessed firsthand what a few terrorist can do to us. With the various security measures enforced upon us and the surrounding neighborhoods, the devastated blow to our economy and the horrific impact to our minds and lives are something we will never forget. But, this act also brought us together, and our people were united more than ever. A week after 9-11, during the memorial service at the Lt. Kimlau Memorial, we witnessed a whole community truly joining hands as one unit. In the following months we saw many actions from the Government and other organizations help the community and its residents to recover. I am happy to report that with every step taken, our members – you – were involved in offering assistance. Through the effort of PCC Frank F. Gee and many others, we provided interpreter and translator services at the Chinese Community Center. We supported and worked closely with the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), through our Representative PPC Wing Y. Tam in the various initiatives to re-build Chinatown. Also, as the closest Legion Post to Ground-Zero, we served as a clearing-house for many relief efforts from other Legion Departments/Posts. All in all, I believe we grew stronger as people, and our community matured, when we rallied together to work for a better tomorrow.
When American Legion National Headquarters announced the formation of the “The 9-11 Scholarship Fund” (later renamed “American Legacy Scholarship”) in October 2001 to support the children of our fallen heroes, our Post jumped into action. Under the direction of then Command Stanley Moy and PPC Richard Chin, we donated over $20,000 in the first year through fundraising efforts in the community and from our members. We understand the important message involved here and we are committed to making donations each year. Our nation is at war, brave men and women are willing to risk their lives to ensure our freedom and democracy. We must support them and their families, it’s the least we can do!
Community services has always been a major part of our program – in 2001, then Commander Wing Y. Tam entered a partnership with NYU Downtown Hospital to conduct Tai-chi classes at our post for residents of the community. This worthwhile program is entering its fourth year and is still going strong. Over 500 graduates benefited from this ancient exercise and many continued to practice on their own in pursuit of health and harmony. We must thank our members – PPC Lester Fong, Richard Lee, and David Lam for their devotion, in serving as instructors. Recently, under the leadership of Commander Wan Y. Tam the Post formed a partnership with Saint Vincent’s Hospital to provide acupuncture treatments to the community. This program is designed to help relieve tension points. We hope this service will result in greater relief to people under constant stress from their busy lifestyles.
In our 55th Anniversary Journal I reported on how proud I was when I represented our Post at the 1998, 80th National Convention in New Orleans, and to make a donation toward the World War II Memorial Fund. On Memorial Day weekend, 2004 I was equally proud to take part in the formal dedication of the World War II Memorial with 20 members/families of our Post. PPC Peter Woo was selected to represent the Department of New York as part of the National delegation to the dedication. It is a great honor not just to him, but also the Lt. Kimlau Post. That weekend, as I walked among members of the greatest generation in the Memorial Mall, I felt very humble that I was allowed to participate in this once-in-lifetime event. To be with the giants of the decades past, to listen to their war stories and to share with them tears and joys of their heroic services to save mankind was something I will never forget. The Greatest Generation is not asking for anything, they are just grateful that our nation hasn’t forgotten them, no matter how long or how late. America and the world should never forget their services, and we should ensure that they are taken care of during their golden years.
There are many exciting things to report for the last five years. The most important one should be the great advancement and recognition of the Lt. B. R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291 within the American Legion family. Two years ago we elected our first New York Department Commander and followed that with the election of our first National Vice-Commander last year. I was the lucky person on both counts. I have received numerous accolades for this “rare achievement”, but I must confess that it was not I alone that made it happen. I believe it was the “CAP” theory at work – whereby for over 50 years our members have been hard at work in search of the American dream. They Contributed, they Assimilated, and now we are making Progress in the Legion. I just happen to be in the right place, at the right time. I was elected because of our WWII members’ devotion and dedication to the legion principles that paved the way. I was elected because of the respect and admiration to our Post, extended by other legionnaires and Departments. I was elected because of the recognition that Lt. Kimlau Post is a vital part of the Legion family and to its programs. In large part I owe my good fortune to the past generation of members, it was their blood and sweat in the battlefields aboard, and in the trenches at home that made it possible for me to advance. This is definitely not a coincidence, as the work had started 60 years ago.
Running a Department Commander campaign is both an exciting and tiring experience. The two years of planning and fundraising would discourage the most ambitious. However, under the collective leadership of our past commanders, especially PPC Peter Woo, and then Commander Stanley Moy the Post pulled together a strong team to ensure our victory. Led by able members filled with enthusiasm but short on actual campaign experience, members Frank F. Gee, Wing Y. Tam, Wan Y. Tam, and many others teamed with legionnaires from New York County and Bronx County to try to put on a good show. This team more than put on a good show, the campaign was overwhelmingly successful. Judging by comments received from the Department and other counties, the team had set a standard that is hard to match. As with any campaign, funding was a major requirement to being successful, it was through our internal efforts and with the great support of the community, that our campaign chest was never a concern. For that, we must make time to thank all who contributed, especially to our community friends for their trust and generosity.
For two years (2002-2004) I traveled throughout the Department of New York and the Northeast Region. I visited many legion posts and met with thousands of legionnaires. At each stop and with each visit I was always well received by strangers. They knew about me, they knew why I was there and that was to be expected. What amazed me was many of them knew about the Kimlau Post. Many heard of our Post and some even remember friends from the old days. Often, they gave me names of our members (mostly deceased) that I didn’t even recognize. It was during such encounters that I felt certain it was our Post and the generations of members’ hard work and goodwill that laid the perfect environment for me. I was at the apex of 60 years of struggle and hope, and that fact is sobering. I came to the realization of who I am, what I represent, and the simple fact that I can not fail. I am happy to report I did not disgrace the good name of this Post and your support and faith in me was not misplaced.
With our Post taking on a more active role in the 21st century, we are also receiving more attention by the mainstream of society. We were honored to have Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao pay homage to Chinese- American veterans by laying a wreath at the Lt. Kimlau Memorial during her visit to Chinatown after 9-11. We were very pleased that Commander Moy and I were invited to the White House to participate in the 2002 Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration. We were equally excited to have accepted on behalf of the Asian community, the State of New York 2002 Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month Proclamation from Governor Pataki. The Post also was honored by several community organizations in appreciation of our cooperation and/or services to the community. We are not looking for glory, that’s not our reason to serve, but it certainly makes everyone feel good to be appreciated.
The War on Terrorism has been going on for over 3 years. Our Post is involved deeply in the support of our troops programs – Blue Star, Gold Star, Family Support Network … We are happy that a few of the returning warriors joined our ranks, especially the celebrity of Bagdad fame – Marine Sergeant Edward Chin. While we welcome the joyous homecoming of many, we also share the sorrow of loss with the families of SPC Roger Ling, SPC Doran Chan, and CPL Jeffrey Lam. These three brave men gave the supreme sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom so that other people can live free. They will always be remembered in our hearts. To memorialize the first Chinese-American casualty in our area, the Post approved the creation of a scholarship to honor SPC Roger Ling, for his patriotism and selflessness services for God and Country. We look forward to work and provide all necessary assistance to the new generation of veterans – for they are the torchbearers of our future.
I am delighted to report that after 58 years, our Post finally moves into the 21st century with the creation of an Auxiliary Unit and a Sons of American Legion Squadron in 2003. These two additional organizations completed the Legion Family for the Lt. Kimlau Post. The Ladies of the Auxiliary Unit really hit the ground running. Their performance for the first two years has far exceeded anyone’s expectations. With membership on the rise and morale high, their potential is unlimited. We are very proud to call the ladies our equal partner. While the ladies are doing extremely well, I cannot say the same for the SAL Squadron. Maybe because of their youth and inexperience, maybe because of the lack of proper guidance, or maybe because of whatever, we have a challenge at hand and the Post should and must provide the necessary resources to ensure it gets on the right track soon. They are part of our future too!
The past five years have been wonderful for me. When I wanted to step down as Adjutant four years ago to concentrate on the campaign for Department Commander, I was told “It’s OK, keep the Adjutant job. We’ll help you”. History repeated itself over the next few years when I was going through my duties as Department Commander and later as National Vice-Commander. Whenever I asked for relief of the Adjutant’s duties, I was always told the same answer, “You can do whatever you want in the Legion and we’ll support you 100%, but you must keep your job as Adjutant”. True to their words, as I traveled and was away from my duties at the Post, much of the office workload was cared for. We didn’t have any serious problems for the last few years that I know of (sometimes I wondered if we really need an Adjutant). With a somewhat guilty conscience and much gratitude I must thank the Commanders – Wing Y. Tam, Stanley Moy, and Wan Y. Tam and the other officers for their understanding, cooperation, trust, and friendship. They ‘took care of the store’ when their Adjutant was on the road – Campaigning, County Visitation, Department Visitation, Conferences, etc… I have to admit, sometimes it is very hard and a struggle to be on the road constantly, with fulltime employment and family requirements. However, when I am ever in doubt of what I am doing, I would often reflect back of who I am, what I represent, and the simple fact is that I can not fail. With that in mind I often take a deep breath and keep going with the knowledge that many of you back here are cheering me on. A special personal thank you must go to Assistant Adjutant Wing Y. Tam for his hard work the last three years in support of your invisible Adjutant and to our PPC Peter Woo, who gave so much to our Post since its inception. For the past decade PPC Woo has served as a mentor for the younger group, especially for me – his support and encouragement, his counseling and guidance, and his friendship will always be treasured in my heart.
The State of our Post is simple – We are alive and well. What we need is the younger generation to join the active ranks to carry-on the tradition. We have traveled this road for 60 years with hard work and determination. We are enjoying the fruits from the labor of the past generation. But there is a new generation of veterans returning home, who need our help and attention. Their well-being could easily be determined by whether we have a strong enough voice or action to demand a Government mandate to do the right thing – honor and serve those who served before in our great nation. Won’t you please join us? – Become Active!