FORT HOOD, Texas - A 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Soldier fulfilled his lifelong dream of joining the Army after immigrating from Hong Kong to the U.S.
Spc. Cecil Wong, a paralegal specialist for the 1st ACB, who now calls Dallas home, was in the U.S. for five months before he became a Soldier – pushing through adversity to see his goals come to fruition.
His journey began nearly nine years ago in Hong Kong when he submitted paperwork to become a permanent resident in the U.S. His mother and younger brother had already been in the States for about six years.
Then, nine years later, he received a letter summoning him to see the U.S. immigration officials in Hong Kong.
Wong was excited, but nervous. After all the years of waiting, his chance had finally arrived – and it all balanced on one interview, he said.
The day of the interview, Wong immediately got turned away because he brought a photo of himself which didn’t meet their standards. Discouraged, he had to go retake the photo in the hopes that the officials would postpone the interview.
Although Wong started off on the wrong foot in his journey to the U.S., he persevered, and with a little patience from the officials, made it to the interview.
Word came quickly that he had been granted permanent residency – he was ecstatic.
Wong gave up his privileged job as a business administrator at a computer hardware company and moved him and his wife to Dallas four months later.
When they arrived in the U.S., Wong discussed with his wife his lifelong dream of joining the Army. At the time, she asked that he not make it his first priority.
However, his wife soon gave in and he was in the recruiter’s office shortly after arriving in the U.S. He said his wife made a great sacrifice – giving up a relatively normal life in Hong Kong – by letting him chase his dream.
“I owe her so much for this … for letting me do this,” he said.
Wong was also drawn to the Soldier life because of a deep sense of honor.
“It is my great honor to be a real U.S. Soldier,” said Wong. “I am really a member of the very best team. Everybody is taking care of me and I want to do some more great things for them.”
Wong attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training where his inability to comprehend certain military terms and jargon left him depressed at times, but he learned a lot too.
“Most of [AIT] was dealing with the paperwork and studying … and I like studying the laws and regulations, it [helps] me understand the military … better,” he said.
The language barrier is quickly pushed aside by Wong’s willingness to learn all he can about his new job as a Soldier and a paralegal specialist.
If he doesn’t understand something, he’ll set pride aside and ask questions until he is proficient at the task.
Sgt. 1st Class Gina Onesto-Person, from Chicago, the 1st ACB’s senior paralegal non-commissioned officer, has worked with Wong and can attest to his fervor.
“He’s really fun and he’s really professional at the same time. He has a great attitude about everything,” she said. “So far I’m very impressed with him as a person and a Soldier.”
Onesto-Person also understands the language barrier issue, but it isn’t of much concern for her because of his openness and dedication, she said.
“In our profession, we talk fast, we move fast, we go fast, but we definitely have to slow it all down for him,” she said. “As long as you explain [the task] to him, he’s fine. He’s got a strong work ethic and he’s focused.”
“I’ve never had a Soldier that so easily transitioned in [to the team] and was so self-motivated,” she continued.
Like many new Soldiers, Wong will be deploying to Afghanistan in the future, but this doesn’t bother him much.
“[Deploying] is one of the very main reason I joined the Army. I really want to be deployed. I want to go somewhere different to safeguard for the country, to do something right for America and the whole world,” he said.
In the meantime, Wong will continue to improve his English and become an even better Soldier – one who can defend freedom world-wide.
“Freedom is not free, it cost something, and I want to do something for it, for my freedom,” he said.