FORT KNOX, Ky. -- One of the Army's newest civilian aides to the secretary of the Army and a longtime supporter of Army recruiting shared his personal story during the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance here May 25.
Ken Wong is the son of Chinese immigrants and has dedicated his time to U.S. Army Recruiting Command as a community partner since 2008. He volunteers his time helping recruiting battalion commanders establish grassroots advisory boards, helps new recruiters get settled in the community, mentors new Army advocates on how to be effective in their communities, and teaches classes at the Recruiting and Retention School to help recruiters understand how to best use community leaders like himself.
Wong is the president and CEO of CIG Asia, Ltd., aproperty and casualty brokerage firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Wong serves on a number of Philadelphia community boards and served on the President's Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during President George W. Bush's administration.
"I hold him in high regard," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, U.S. Army Recruiting Command's commanding general and the host of this year's observance, adding that Wong was the first person he thought of to speak at this event.
"He is truly a man of action - he's a deeds not words kind of guy," Snow said. "He has given the better part of the last decade to supporting our recruiting efforts. He is a community partner in every sense of the word. ... This man is truly committed to our Army and our nation."
Wong was recently appointed as the CASA for Pennsylvania -- East, a role in which he advises the secretary on regional issues and promotes good relations between the Army, USAREC and the public.
During the observance, Wong talked about how Asian-Americans have served this country in the military since 1815 and how his father used to tell him and his siblings that as a young man in China, he'd heard great stories about a country called the United States.
"(My father said) that if you come to this country, work hard, and do the right thing, you have a tremendous amount of opportunities for yourself and your family," Wong said. "My siblings and I have been blessed with the American dream throughout our lives through the tremendous effort of my parents and really the tremendous effort and the great sacrifices of our military.
"I'm proud to say that Asian-Americans have served in our military going back to the beginnings of our nation and continue to be an integral part of the fabric of our future. I am very passionate about supporting the Army's recruiting efforts because I am passionate about our nation. I truly believe that it's the responsibility of the American people to raise and support our Army."
A fellow Asian-American currently serving as the Kansas City Recruiting Battalion commander joined Wong as a speaker at the Fort Knox celebration.
Raised in poverty in China, Lt. Col. Jane Sander immigrated to the United States at age 10.
Going against her parents' wishes for her to go to college, Sander decided to join the Army. Remarking that freedom is not free, she said she is very passionate about serving her country.
"Had we not come to America, there would have been no opportunity for us, so I am just grateful," Sander said. "My Army recruiter said, 'Don't worry, you can succeed.' Basic combat training was my proudest moment. It transformed me from a shy girl. ... I feel extremely blessed, and this is a way to pay back my country."
The observance also featured Asian and Pacific Islander cultural exhibits and music and dance performances by Measina A. Samoa Entertainment and Hula Ohana O'Kentucky.
The observance celebrates the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages and unique experiences of more than 56 ethnic groups, who speak over 100 languages, from Asia and the Pacific islands who live in the United States.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigrant to come to the United States on May 7, 1843.