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"Is This Patriot Enough For You?" An Asian American Veteran Showed His Scars In A Powerful Speech About Racism

"I'm not afraid; I don't have to live in fear [of] intimidation or insults."

Last updated on March 28, 2021, at 4:15 p.m. ET

Posted on March 28, 2021, at 2:12 p.m. ET

Side-by-side images of  Lee Wong speaking into a microphone and showing the scars on his chest
West Chester Township / Via Vimeo

A local official in Ohio has gone viral after giving a powerful speech about anti–Asian American racism in which he revealed scars sustained during his service in the US military.

"For too long, I have put up with a lot of shit in silence," said Lee Wong, a board of trustees chairman in West Chester Township, Ohio, during a meeting Tuesday. "Too afraid to speak out, fearing more abuse and discrimination."

Wong, 69, said that he felt loved by his community, but he'd also witnessed racism against Asian Americans in the past few years becoming "worse and worse." His remarks came after a mass shooting left eight people dead in Atlanta, including six Asian women, as well as a documented rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

Even after serving his country, Wong said, he has experienced discrimination from people who questioned his loyalty because of his race.

"There are some annoying people that would come up to me and say that I don't look American, or patriotic enough," Wong said. "People question my patriotism, that I don't look American enough. They cannot get over this face."

Wong described an incident that occurred several years after he'd arrived in the US from Borneo at age 18, in which he was beaten by a man in Chicago who was never punished for the crime.

The traumatic event changed the course of his life, Wong said, adding that he went on to serve 20 years of active duty in the US Army.

"I'm not afraid; I don't have to live in fear [of] intimidation or insults," Wong said. "I'm going to show you what patriotism, the questions about patriotism, looks like."

Wong then rose from his chair and removed his shirt to reveal visible scars across his chest, sustained in the line of duty.

"Here is my proof," he said. "Now, is this patriot enough? I'm not ashamed to walk around anymore."

Lee Wong, an elected official in West Chester, Ohio & @USArmy veteran with 20-years of service, took his shirt off during a town hall meeting on Wednesday and revealed scars he received during his service. “Is this patriot enough?” he asked #StopAsianHate https://t.co/3nCwTlVGxD

Twitter: @JimLaPorta

The powerful clip went viral after it was shared by an Associated Press reporter who is also a veteran. In response, people thanked Wong for his service and for speaking out about the rise in hate toward Asian Americans.

no one should prove how "American" they are to deserve dignity and respect. but damn. Lee Wong went hard on them and it is very satisfying to watch 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 https://t.co/DbrPkt8rHq

Twitter: @jennyyangtv

Lee Wong, an Asian American elected official & veteran, shares his scars in a town hall meeting, tired of the anti-Asian hate. “Is this patriot enough?” Mr. Wong - thank you for your service.

Twitter: @FrancesWangTV

Veteran & Chair of the West Chester Township (OH) Bd of Trustees Lee Wong has had it. Lifting Mr. Wong up today with thanks for his transparency, voice and power. #EnoughIsEnough #StopAsianHate https://t.co/TW1K0ET4Xq

Twitter: @Sifill_LDF

Wong told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his speech was not planned but he was inspired to speak after the Atlanta shootings and other anti-Asian violence.

"In that moment, I don't know what came over me. I just knew I had to say something," Wong told the Enquirer, also recalling a recent incident at a grocery store in which a father and son mocked his eyes.

Wong told the Enquirer that he's grateful for the positive response and support he's received since his speech.

"People thank me for my service. People are glad I spoke," Wong said. "West Chester is a diverse community, and we don't need that kind of [anti-Asian] rhetoric."

A Republican, Wong described himself as a political moderate during a 2020 run for state Senate. He hit the campaign trail with a Segway and wore a "Make America Great Again" hat, the Enquirer reported at the time.

BuzzFeed News' requests for comment from Wong were not immediately returned Sunday.

You can watch Wong's full remarks around the 25 minute mark:

vimeo.com




A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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