Alhambra’s Asian-American Soldiers

Recent Alhambra High alum have been making news as examples of a shifting trend in military enlistment. An LA Times front-page story reports today an 80% increase in Asian enlistees in Los Angeles last year. Immigration reporter Teresa Watanabe writes, “Asians have traditionally joined the military at the lowest rate among all races” — but that attitudes are changing.

Watanabe profiles Alhambra High School alum, Christopher Ly, who graduated last June and hopes that joining the military will pay his way through Stanford. “For Asian Americans, the greatest appeal is the college benefits,” Ly tells Watanabe. “Especially with the price increases for the UC system, it’s definitely not a good time to take out student loans and go into debt.” But his Chinese-Vietnamese parents were not happy when he enlisted: “They said, ‘Don’t do it. You’re stupid. You’re going to die.’ ”

Sing Tao Daily (translated by New American Media) reported in June an extensive feature on another Alhambra High alum who joined the military: Chang Wong. Like Ly, in 2000, Wong, a native of Malaysia who had only recently received permanent residency, was faced with college tuition fees and the army presented an attractive option. And like Ly, Wong’s ethnically Chinese parents were upset when they found out he joined the military.

Four years ago while serving in Iraq, he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device and lost both his feet. One of his reasons for joining the army was that he had only recently become a permanent resident. Wong’s dream was realized, but, as Sing Tao reporter, Charles Ding, writes, “His naturalization ceremony was atypical. He doesn’t remember it because he was sworn in a medically induced coma.” Today Wong walks — and even runs — on artificial legs.

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