Tucson Chinese Cultural Center:
U.S. Veterans of Chinese Descent Wall of Honor
Throughout American history, men and women of Chinese ancestry have served in the U.S. military. In September 2017, the Tucson Chinese Association Board decided to establish a permanent photo display honoring U.S. Veterans of Chinese Descent in Pima County at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center (TCCC). Soon after, the project began collecting veteran photos and information.
At the TCCC Chinese Luna New Year Dinner in February 2018, the Center honored 51 veterans with a photo tribute that included a Power Point presentation, individual veteran framed photos, and a veteran photos section in the dinner program. The TCCC specifically honored the World War II and Korean War Veterans.
After the Dinner, the Center continued to collect veteran photos and information until September 30th. It was the Pima County Chinese Community who promoted the project. It was individuals and families who recruited family members and friends to participate in this project. One of the major challenges was to find military photos and documented information which was not easy for many families. It took several months to find a reasonable priced and flexible photo display system that allows the Center to add more photos in the future. Some of the photos provided were very old and not good quality for enlarging. Many of the photos had to be cropped and enhanced.
On November 17, 2018, the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center dedicated the U.S. Veterans of Chinese Descent Wall of Honor. There were more than 125 attendees. The Dedication started with the traditional Chinese lion dance and then followed with the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard. The City of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spoke about the history of Chinese in Tucson and their military service to our nation. Barry Wong, Director, Arizona Governor’s Office of Equal Opportunity, read the Governor Ducey’s Proclamation: Wall of Honor and presented it to the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. Dr. Howard J. Eng provided the Wall of Honor Overview. There were 57 World War II and Korean War veterans honored during the Dedication. Barry Wong presented eight Governor’s Commendations to four World War II and four Korean War veterans and recognized the remaining veterans who were not in attendance. The Dedication ended with the Wall of Honor Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. The Wall of Honor displays 76 veteran photos (see Dedication Program).
After the Dedication Program, the Center continued to collect veteran photos and information until December 15, 2018. The Wall of Honor Update displays 91 veteran photos (see Wall of Honor Photo Booklet). The earliest three known Tucson U.S. veterans of Chinese Descent are: Kwong Lee, a cabin boy in the Union Navy during the Civil War; Ah One, a mess attendant in the U.S. Navy during Spanish American; and Don S. Toy, a private first class in the U.S. Army during World War I.
As you enter the TCCC conference room / library, the Wall of Honor is located on the south wall. The first poster has an introduction and starts the veteran photos with Kwong Lee that continues for five more posters. For each veteran photo, the following information is provided the war or time period served, name, military rank, branch of service, theater for World War II veterans, and retired military rank. The photo collection shows that throughout Tucson and Pima County history, U.S. Veterans of Chinese Descent served in the United States military in all the major American wars. It also shows that within a family there may be more than one generation that served in the U.S. Arm Forces and/or several family members served at the same time.
The Tucson Chinese Culture Center would like to thank all the veterans and families who provide us photos and information and recruited others to be part of the Wall of Honor, and all those who help with the project. Without your support and interest in this project, it would not exist. We cordially invite everyone to come by the Center and view the U.S. Veterans of Chinese Descent Wall of Honor.