The Adjutant’s Report
70th Anniversary (2006 – 2010)
By PCC Gabe B. Mui
In April of 2009, near the end of my second term serving as commander of Lt. B. R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291, I was looking forward to a little R&R (rest and relaxation) after the June installation. At that time, my thirty-nine year career at Consolidated Edison was winding down towards my planned retirement. I was no different than any other future retiree, who had a full to-do list that was put off until retirement – things like pursuing travel both domestic and aboard, hobbies such as photography and golfing, enjoying a sunny afternoon on the beach, and tackling many delayed projects around the house.
Somehow, my planned retirement did not follow the course I had laid out. Our long time adjutant Fang A. Wong, who served so distinctly in that capacity, was headed into uncharted territory. He was preparing to run for the high office of National Commander. His upcoming campaign would not allow him the time to tend to daily operations at the Post. Campaigning for National Commander was no small task. Fang would be devoting all his time and effort to the campaign which would require him to travel back and forth across the country. Chairman of the Board Peter Woo, our most respected leader, approached me and encouraged me to step in to fill the adjutant position since I was planning for my retirement anyway. I was a little apprehensive at first and worried about what a big task it would be to be an adjutant of Kimlau Post. With the encouragement and support from our Chairman and the Post’s senior leaders, I put aside my long to-do list and humbly accepted the challenge.
Much to my surprise, I did not envision that I would be serving as the Kimlau Post adjutant for the past six consecutive years. Even though some of the projects around the house that I had put off until my retirement are still on my to-do list, and I occasionally yearn for a sunny afternoon at the beach or on the golf course, my time spent during the last few years serving the veterans and the community, promoting patriotism, interacting with the youth and building camaraderie among our fellow members has been a very rewarding experience.
There was so much to do and learn from the beginning. Fortunately, the support from everyone, and especially from our Chairman, made the transition a little easier and made me feel a bit more comfortable in assuming the adjutant position. The first major task at hand was the monumental undertaking of helping Fang with his campaign effort. The “Committee to Elect Fang A. Wong for National Commander” was formed and chaired by then Commander Harvard Tang and Chairman Peter Woo to coordinate the fundraising. Mailings were sent to every member to solicit their support and donate to this historic event. Everyone was working hard to achieve the best result possible to support Fang’s endeavor. Thanks to the overwhelming support and generous donations from our members and the Chinatown community, the fundraising was an astounding success. Fang took his oath at the 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to become the first Chinese-American National Commander of the American Legion, the largest veterans’ organization in the country.
The joyous mood of our members still fresh from celebrating Fang’s historic achievement soon turned sorrowful when we learned that our incumbent Commander Robert G. T. Chin was seriously ill. He was admitted to Beth Israel Hospital in late September and soon succumbed to cancer. Commander Chin, who was elected Post Commander only a few months before, passed away in the hospital on October 3, 2011. Our post was left without a sitting commander and scrambled to find a suitable replacement. An emergency meeting was called in November and the Post Executive Committee unanimously endorsed the appointment of Post Vice Commander Mimi Wang to succeed Commander Chin. Commander Wang became the first female commander of our post. This is no small feat and it reflected remarkable progression in our post’s proud history. Some of our older members still remember a time in the past when females were not invited to any post functions, and now our post was led by a female commander. Commander Wang was elected by post members to serve another two terms from 2012 to 2014. This attests to Commander Wang’s ability and devotion to serve.
The world we are living in is constantly changing and we cannot afford to stand still. Things we were doing well and effectively 20 and 30 years ago may not be as effective now. With more and more people utilizing the internet as a main communication tool, our post recognizes the effectiveness and cost savings of disseminating important information to our members in a timely manner through email. In the spring of 2011, we utilized email communications for the first time to keep up with modern times, and encouraged members to go paperless for the environment. We asked members to provide their email addresses to the post and update their existing ones on file. We started to disseminate pertinent information, job opportunities and announcements via email with great results. We realize that since our post still have a significant percentage of members who do not have access to the internet or are not computer savvy, we continue to send out information by mail because it is vital to those members without this technology.
Membership matters and you have often heard the familiar saying that membership is the lifeline of every organization. That saying especially applies to the American Legion. Strong membership will give the Legion a strong voice in advocating benefits for veterans, which they have earned while they served and defended our country. All of us have to do a better job to recruit new members to restore the vacancies of those who are no longer with us. The declining membership throughout American Legion Posts in recent years is alarming. As the count down to the American Legion centennial anniversary celebration is only five years away, national leadership has put in place a Five-year Plan to aggressively recruit and retain members. Our post’s strong membership team has been doing a fine job recruiting new members in recent years. In the last few years, the post felt a greater urgency to maintain a satisfactory level of membership due to the departure of World War II veterans, who Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation,” at greater frequency. With the protracted Gulf War continuing since 1990, there is an influx of returning Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Iraqi veterans and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan veterans to draw from. We have been steadily adding OIF and OEF veterans to our ranks. To date, a third of our membership is comprised of Gulf Wars veterans. We know that we cannot be complacent on the important task of recruiting and retaining members. We must continue to work hard on it all the time.
The Kimlau Post’s Scholarship program has been very successful since its reinstatement in 2003. Each year we award eight scholarships of $500 to post members and the progeny of post members in pursuit of higher education. The scholarship committee members annually select four high school graduates and four college students based on their scholastic achievements and community service credentials. In addition, a special annual award is giving to a graduating student from Cardozo High School in memory of Specialist (SPC) Roger Ling. SPC Roger Ling, a graduate from Cardozo High School, was the first Asian American who died while serving our country during the fight against terrorism in Iraq. The student must demonstrate outstanding scholastic achievements, civic and patriotic contributions to be selected for the award. In 2013, the scholarship committee unanimously approved to increase the number of scholarship recipients by two for a total of ten students. The scholarship committee is considering whether to add more scholarships and/or increase the monetary award in the near future. In 2014, the post added a new scholarship award with great thanks to the family of Robert S. Wong. The Wong family made a $5,000 donation to the Lt. Kimlau Post scholarship fund in memory of our long time member who had served in WWII. Robert was born in the United States and traveled to Taishan, China, to study Chinese as a child. His family felt the best way to honor him was to encourage young people to not forget their roots and educate themselves in the Chinese language. They requested the scholarship be given to post members and progeny of our members who study Chinese in school. The Post Scholarship Committee Members have established the criteria to award a maximum of five $100 scholarships annually until the fund is exhausted.
Superstorm Sandy devastated our area and left many towns and villages in ruin. Many people were impacted by the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. Transportation and communications in the New York City and the surrounding coastal area were severely disrupted during the storm. The Post Headquarters was without electricity for a few days. Many of our members sustained heavy losses caused by the flood and wind. Our post joined the efforts organized by the Queens and Richmond Counties Legion Posts by making a monetary donation to help communities in need. The American Legion National Emergency Fund was created to assist legionnaires in rebuilding their homes and lives after natural disasters. The fund has provided help to many Legion members who suffered losses throughout the region. The fund needs to be replenished to continue to be ready to help in future disasters. We actively solicit and encourage our members to contribute to the National Emergency Fund to support this worthy cause.
Over the past few years, our post has tried to find ways for more accommodating to younger members trying to attend post meetings. Understandably, many of them are either busy raising a family, attending schools or have job commitments that would not allow them to be more involved with post functions and meetings. The post, in addition to our regularly scheduled meetings, initiated a once a month meeting at night to make it easier for members who prefer to spend time with family on weekends. The post also committed to work with the U. S. Marines to start the Toys for Tots program. For the past three years, we have distributed over 2,500 toys to underprivileged children in the Chinatown community. In 2012, we adopted a platoon in the 10th Mountain Division for the second time and sent care packages and letters written by local students to them while they were deployed in Afghanistan. We participated in the renaming of a street and honoring Danny Chen who grew up in Chinatown. Danny encountered abuse from his superior of the unit and later committed suicide while serving in the U. S. Army in Afghanistan. We continue to partner with the Presbyterian Downtown Hospital to offer weekly Tai-Chi classes to members and the local community to learn and practice the ancient exercise. Over 600 people have taken advantage of this program since the Tai-chi classes started more than ten years ago. We participated in many local functions including serving on the board of Chinatown Working Group to plan for the future of the Chinatown area. We currently serve as a board member of the Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID), whose main mission is to maintain cleanliness and to advocate for a better Chinatown community for business and residents. In the BID’s annual meeting of January 2014, I was honored to be elected as chairman to succeed my fellow legionnaire and the BID’s inaugural Chairman David Louie. David chaired the BID in its infancy and guided the BID through two turbulent, yet highly successful years.
It has been a very busy six years and I am grateful for all that has been accomplished. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride that I have contributed to the success of the Kimlau Post. As we are preparing to celebrate the Post’s 70th anniversary, I have come to realize that all of the accomplishments in the last six years would not have been achieved if not for the foresight, vision, and strong foundation provided by our past leaders. We have to continue to build on the legacy that was passed on to us and be successful for the next seventy years and beyond. We need the younger members to step forward to take on an active role and to carry the torch in the future. With the large group of young veterans joining our ranks in the past few years, I can envision that the future of our Post will be bright and we will continue to be successful.