Lee Wong hadn't planned to take his shirt off during a town hall meeting on Tuesday in West Chester, Ohio. But when the 20-year US military veteran and chair of the city's board of trustees found himself "getting a little hot" while speaking about anti-Asian sentiment in the US, of which a recent increase has led to a spike in attacks, he realized "the timing was right in light of what's happening in this country," he tells the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I'm going to show you what patriotism ... looks like," he said at the meeting in a clip that's now gone viral on social media (a longer version can be seen here). The 69-year-old Asian American, who came to the US more than 50 years ago, is shown loosening his tie, unbuttoning his shirt, and standing up, pulling up his undershirt to reveal the scars on his chest that show the injuries he received while serving in the US Army. "Here is my proof," he says. "Is this patriot enough?"
Wong tells FOX19 that when he came to the US as a teen to study in the late '60s, he was hospitalized after getting beat up in Chicago for being Asian. "That was my first experience" in America, he notes. The racism continued even after he'd served two decades in the Army, including when the Republican was campaigning as an elected official and people would tell him he didn't look "American enough," which was like a "stab in my heart." Wong tells the Enquirer he has put up "with a lot of s--- in silence ... too afraid to speak out, fearing more abuse and discrimination." Then came Tuesday's meeting. "I don't know what came over me," Wong says. "I just knew I had to say something." He says response to his speech has been mostly positive. "People are glad I spoke," he says. "West Chester is a diverse community and we don't need that kind of rhetoric." (Read more Asian-Americans stories.)