Giving Back and Saying 'Thanks'
By Michelle Romano
There are many headlines about immigration policy blaring from today's newspapers and cable news programs, and everybody seems to have an opinon on what should be done. There are many small stories, however, that can be told that illustrate the poignancy of the experience from the point of view of immigrant families.
After Andrew Hwang's family left Korea, hard work and determination helped them find a better life in America. Now, Hwang, a recent West Point graduate, is showing his appreciation for his family's efforts by giving back to his family's adopted country.
"America has done so much for my family and this is why I owe so much to this country," Hwang said in an email to The Wave. "I feel as if I have an obligation to serve the nation."
In the fall, Hwang will take an Officer Leader course at Fort Bliss, Texas. There, he hopes to work with the long range Patriot Missile System, the front line of defense against enemy missiles threatening American troops in the field. Military service is nothing new for Hwang's family.
His two cousins are also service academy graduates. Army Captain Edward Hwang is currently in the Language Defense School in Monterey, California and Air Force Captain Paul Hwang is serving as a surgeon at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
In 1983, the Hwang family brought "nothing but hope, optimism and a strong work ethic" with them to New York after leaving poverty-stricken Korea behind.
They made their first American home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where Hwang's father and uncles worked multiple jobs to support their family.
"Their hard work paid off and America gave them the opportunity to excel," Hwang said. "My parents have given me and my brother a life of luxury that they would have never had in Korea."
After Hwang's uncles (who were living in Belle Harbor) decided to move away, Hwang's parents saw an opportunity to move their family to the Rockaways.
"Belle Harbor was an opportunity for my parents to live in a better neighborhood and to live more comfortably," Hwang said.
When Hwang's parents took over Belle Harbor Foods on Beach 129 Street, Hwang said he saw "a big difference in their morale." They adapted quickly to the change of scenery, enjoying the beach and friendly people.
Hwang, who was at first reluctant to move out of his "comfort zone," said Rockaway has now become a refuge. "Belle Harbor became a place for me to relax," Hwang said. "My friends and I come over during the weekend to enjoy the great beaches."
Grateful for the opportunities America has provided for his family, Hwang holds a special place in his heart for the peninsula. "Belle Harbor has changed my family's life and I cannot thank the community enough," he said.