Asian faux U.S. military units received extensive critical coverage recently when a man who called himself the "Supreme Commander" was arrested for falsely convincing immigrants that they had a path to citizenship by joining his group, among other charges. But the LA Times reports that there are many other groups in the San Gabriel Valley which have provided a means to feeling more "American" for hundreds of recent immigrants. For years members of these units have dressed in U.S. military uniforms, marched in parades, volunteered in their communities, and interacted with politicians.
"Many of those filling the ranks of the association are Chinese immigrants who had been denied the opportunity to join the army in their homeland, a status symbol there," the Times reports. "Members say they view their participation here as being akin to joining a service club, a form of volunteer work with a bit of dress-up thrown in."
Writer Ching-Ching Ni's extensively reported story traces the groups back to the first one:
"Earnest Tchang, a security guard in Orange County's Little Saigon who banded together with fellow Vietnamese Chinese who had fought in the Vietnam War. They met socially, dressed in uniform and volunteered as color guards at military funerals. As interest increased among Chinese immigrants, many of them in the San Gabriel Valley, the group became headquartered in Rosemead….Membership grew by word of mouth and through recruitment drives outside supermarkets and in neighborhood parks. Before long, their activities came to include organizing cultural events to benefit Chinese orphans adopted by American families and donating turkeys to the elderly on Thanksgivings."
One of those groups the story highlights is the Rosemead based United States Army Volunteer Reserve Association. In 2006 it was incorporated as a nonprofit.
"I want to do something good for America. I can't just pick up a broom and sweep the streets," George Liu, a member of the group and a cook at a Chinese restaurant, told the Times. "I need a group like this. It makes me feel American."
Read the complete article here.