An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | May 15, 2024

Honoring our Heritage: A Family's Legacy of Military Service

By Courtesy Story Army South Courtesy Asset

As we commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I find myself reflecting on the profound significance of this annual celebration. It's a time to honor the rich cultures, histories, and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the diversity of our nation. For me, this month holds special significance, not just as a time to recognize the broader community, but also to reflect on the deep personal connections I have to this heritage.
Growing up as a part of the Fong family, military service wasn't just a tradition, it was our way of life. Our family's legacy of service to our country spans generations, beginning with my grandfather, Yook “Herb” Fong. Born into a family of nine children to parents who were first-generation immigrants to the United States, Herb emerged from humble beginnings. At the age of 19, he answered the call to serve by joining the United States Air Force (USAF). During his tenure, he served as a radio operator during the Korean War and was later stationed at the 1st Communications Squadron, Far East Air Base, Nagoya, Japan in 1951. It was there that he met the love of his life, Toshiko Tokuda, whom he married on March 23, 1952. Following their union, they embarked on a journey across various Air Force bases around the country, raising their four children, Terry, Timothy, Valerie, and Kathy. Herb dedicated two decades of his life to the USAF, garnering numerous honors before retiring as a Master Sergeant and a distinguished Korean War veteran.
Following in our grandfather's footsteps, my father Terry Fong and uncle Timothy Fong continued our family's tradition with distinguished careers. Both were accepted into West Point in 1972 and 1973, a time that filled their parents with both pride and nervousness due to the height of the Vietnam War. Many graduates were being deployed as their first assignments, however, the war ended before they were commissioned, relieving their parents' worries.
Terry Fong went on to pursue further training at Ranger and Airborne school before serving as an armor officer for the C Troop, 5th Cavalry Squadron, and later as a platoon leader
for the 1/68th Armor Battalion. He eventually transferred to the Signal branch, where he excelled as an acquisitions officer, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
Timothy Fong also brought honor to the family, commissioning on June 8, 1977. He went on to serve as the commander of the 36th Signal Battalion in Camp Walker, Korea, and as the officer in charge of the Information Assurance Engineering Support Organization from 1998 to 2002. He retired from the Army with the rank of colonel with 28 years of military service. Together, their tales of camaraderie and duty instilled in me a profound sense of pride from a young age.

The next generation began with my cousin, Tim Fong Jr., who exemplified courage and dedication during his six years of service in the Army. His two deployments to Iraq and subsequent recognition with the Bronze Star for his actions serve as a testament to his valor and our family's unwavering commitment to our nation's defense. My brother, Jonathan Fong, started his post-college career working in industry for 5 years before deciding to pursue a military career. He commissioned into the USAF in 2012 through Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Ala. as a development engineer in the acquisition field. Major Fong transitioned to the United States Space Force in 2021 during the first call for volunteers and continues to serve on active duty. Together, our family's combined military service spans a total of 98 years, a reflection of our enduring devotion to serving our nation and upholding the values we hold dear.

Looking back at our heritage and growing up as a “military brat,” my childhood was filled with unique experiences that shaped my future. I vividly remember the excitement of wearing my dad's Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) and eagerly saluting him when he returned home from work. I remember standing proudly with my brother upon hearing the bugle calls of retreat and listening to the somber notes of taps each evening before bed, all of which became comforting rituals in our military upbringing.

However, it wasn't always easy. While each of our generations faced unique challenges and conflicts throughout history, the impact on us as Soldiers and our families remains strikingly similar. Long temporary duty (TDY) assignments away from loved ones and looming deployments cast shadows of worry over our family. Yet, these challenges only strengthened
our bond and reinforced the values of resilience and sacrifice instilled in us by our military upbringing.

Reflecting on my journey, I realize how profoundly our family's legacy has influenced my path in life. Despite not knowing my career aspirations as a young man, the memories of my upbringing guided me towards the military, seemingly destined to follow in the footsteps of those who came before me. Today, with 12 years of service as an Army finance officer, including two deployments to Afghanistan, I am grateful for the unwavering support and encouragement of my family. Our shared experiences have forged a bond that is as unbreakable as it is unique.

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’m reminded of the sacrifices and contributions of Asian Americans in the military, including those within my own family. To my grandfather, father, uncle, brother, cousin, and all who have served before me, I am forever grateful. Your guidance, wisdom, and legacy inspire me every day, and I strive to honor your example with every step of my journey.

To the military spouses who have stood by our side during these times, I extend heartfelt thanks for your remarkable sacrifices. Enduring separations, frequent relocations, and navigating the complexities of family life amidst uncertainty. Your unwavering support and resilience are the bedrock of our military service.
Lastly, to my beautiful wife Selina, I offer my deepest thanks for your support and a heartfelt promise to continue making you proud. Together, ‘may we always have fair winds and soft landings.’