Jason Hong was just 23 when he left his home in South Korea to join some 325,000 Korean soldiers who would fight as allies alongside American troops throughout the Vietnam War.
By the time Hong and other members of his Blue Dragon infantry marine division left the battlefield, in 1969, his hearing was damaged by two years of listening to bombs explode a heartbeat away. And those hearing problems have only worsened now that Hong is a 75-year-old American citizen living in Cerritos.
Half a century later, Hong could get help with the treatments and pricey hearing devices he needs if a new federal bill championed by congress members from Southern California becomes law. U.S. House Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Yorba Linda, on Thursday introduced his Korean American Vietnam Allies Long Overdue for Relief Act, also called the Korean American VALOR Act.
The bill would give the estimated 3,000 Korean immigrants who fought in the Vietnam War and have become naturalized U.S. citizens access to the same medical care that other American veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs.