Wilem Wong believes that there is no refund for your life. You have to make your admission ticket count.He was born and raised in New York City Chinatown/Little Italy. His parents immigrated to New York from Hong Kong in the late 1960’s. His parents’ limited English proficiency was sufficient for his father to work as a waiter in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown and for his mother to work as a seamstress in the garment factories in Chinatown and the lower east side of Manhattan. He attended public schools with so many other children of immigrant parents from his neighborhood. His ethnically isolated upbringing was not a shock to him until he entered college.Upon entering Baruch College (City University of New York) in the fall of 1988, he realized within the first week of his classes that he didn’t want a college experience revolving around playing mahjong and attending weekly Asian social club parties hosted by various local colleges. This was 1988, the Cold War was still bitterly cold when he enlisted in the United States Army Reserve in the rank of Private. In 1989, he graduated from Basic Training as well as Advanced Individual Training and was discharged from active duty on November 9, 1989 which coincidentally was the start of the post-Cold War era with the fall of the Berlin Wall. This initial Army experience began his experiential cultural education and dramatically shaped his identity as an American of Chinese descent.Fast forward to the present day, Wilem Wong has served over 26 years in the United States Army Reserve. Besides gaining an extensive experiential cultural education through his many military missions, the Army has afforded him the opportunity through the G.I. Bill to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from New York University and a Master of Arts degree in Management and Leadership from Webster University. In addition, he has graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
The most important lesson he has learned through his aforementioned cultural education as well as formal education is being comfortable in his own skin since he is usually one of a few Asians in most military units he has served in. The following paragraphs highlights the opportunities the Army has given him to serve around the world and reinforce that there is only one color for the American Soldier – green.Prior to September 11, 2001, he served as a combat medic and as a practical nurse on Humanitarian Civic Assistance missions in El Salvador and Panama as well as provide medical staff support to an Army Hospital in Germany. In 2000, he became a commissioned officer with the rank of Second Lieutenant.
In 2008, in the rank of Captain in the United States Army Reserve, he served with the United States Army XVIII Airborne Corps in Baghdad, Iraq. He was the Governance Action Officer which was a staff officer position assigned to Multi-National Coalition – Iraq (MNC-I) Civil-Military Operations (C9). He was the Governance Action Officer on the Joint Planning Team for Iraq’s Provincial Elections and Iraq’s National Literacy Campaign. In addition, he was the Non-Kinetic Future Operations Economic Officer responsible for planning and evaluating various economic programs to stimulate business development and reconstruction efforts in Iraq which were critical tools in the counter-insurgency (COIN) efforts across Iraq. For his military service in Iraq, Wong earned a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and a Combat Action Badge.
In 2011, in the rank of Major in the United States Army Reserve, he served as a special staff officer with the United States Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 1 and Regimental Combat Team 5 in Helmand, Afghanistan. He led an 11 member Human Terrain Team that consisted of an anthropologist, archaeologist, social scientists, and Pashto linguists during field engagements with the local Afghan population. His team’s mandate was to understand the local Afghan’s perceptions, motivations, interests, and grievances to assist combatant commanders in making better operational and strategic decisions to stabilize and develop central and southern Helmand province of Afghanistan. Helmand was one of the strongholds of the Taliban. For his military service in Afghanistan, Wong earned a Bronze Star Medal and a NATO Medal.
Wong has proudly served and still proudly serving in the cloth of the United States as one of “America’s Finest.” Concurrently, he is proactively serving in his civilian capacity in the cloth of the City of New York as one of “New York’s Finest.” He believes his service to his nation and city is a way to fully embrace his American identity. He is grateful for the Chinese American predecessors that paved the way for him to serve in both his military and civilian capacities. He believes like many of his brothers and sisters in all colors and persuasions in both professions that he has a ticket to an orchestra seat to the greatest show on earth and he is definitely not asking for a refund.