SEATTLE -- Gene Moy recently celebrated his 102nd birthday on the dance floor.
“A lot of people think they’re old already, but look at Gene,” said Cari Murotani, a family friend. “He’s still dancing every dance.”
It’s something Moy picked up while serving in the Army during World War II.
“I’m kind of proud to have served my country,” said the soft spoken Moy.
That pride will be on display in the fall when he and other Chinese American veterans from throughout the country are finally awarded U.S. Congressional Gold Medals.
“To me it’s everything,” said Terry Nicholas, commander of the Cathay Post of the American Legion, which was created after the war because no other post would take Chinese American veterans in the Seattle area. “It’s finally recognizing their service to this country.”
Being barred form other legion posts is just one of the indignities they faced in the '40s.
The U.S. still enforced the Chinese Exclusion Act when most were drafted or signed up for the war. That meant wives and family members in China couldn’t come to the U.S. despite the sacrifices of those vets.
The Gold Medal is a way to address and try to right some of those wrongs.
“All these things help,” said Al Young, the son of Col. John Young, a highly decorated officer during the war. “It all helps in saying we are all in these things together.”
Col. Young served more than two years during WW II, eventually detached to help train Chinese troops to fight back Japanese forces. That included the famous Battle of Mount Song, where Young and other army engineers came up with a unique plan to destroy an enemy stronghold.
“They had all this American TNT,” said Al Young. “And they said, ‘Why don’t we just tunnel underneath their fortifications and blow the thing up?’”
The plan worked, captured in pictures, and articles, and even comic books. But the war hero still faced prejudice when he returned to his country, even at his home base.
John Young went on to be a success in business and always looked back on his service with pride. His son says he would be happy to know the Congressional Gold Medal is finally being bestowed to Chinese-Americans.
“It’s recognition,” said Young.
And it’s a recognition that 102-year-old Gene Moy is ready to receive, even if it means hanging up his dancing shoes for a few days.
Moy, and his family, are planning to make the trip to Washington, D.C. in the fall to receive the Gold Medal in person, and the centenarian can’t wait.
“I’m just so happy to get it. It’s a long trip to Washington, but it’s worth it," he said.