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.”
During the Vietnam War, that meant working undercover for the Army as a Chinese language expert. Later, in New York, it meant helping Chinatown recover from the upheaval of 9/11.
Now that Wong is the legion’s first-ever Asian-American National Commander, it means lobbying President Obama to create jobs for soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The unemployment rate for returning veterans is 28%,” he said. “We need the government sector and the private sector to understand that when you hire a veteran you get a very good employee.”
Born in Canton, China, in 1948 – one year before the Communist Party took power there – Wong moved with his mother and brother to Hong Kong.
They immigrated to New York in 1960 to join Wong’s father, who was running a Laundromat on W. 148th St.
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