Native of China at home in Minn. National Guard
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Spc. Yuan Hsu is not your ordinary military administrative clerk.
Hsu, 40, started his military career with the Minnesota National Guard a bit later than many soldiers do — he had just turned 35 when he started boot camp.
This China native was not after college money or a way to earn extra money — he wanted experiences similar to what he read about in the Stephen Ambrose book “Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany.” He wanted to experience the tradition, history and being part of a force made up of regular people with different talents and backgrounds.
“The concept appealed to me,” Hsu said.
Hsu lives in Woodbury, Minn., with his wife, Debra, and children, Alexander, 12; and Hattie, 8. His first deployment was to Bosnia and along with it came the chance to contribute to the Guard more than just on the weekends.
“A lot of what happens in this unit depends on him and I depend on him,” said 1st Sgt. Tim Voneschen of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 34th Infantry Division. “He serves as a mentor to younger soldiers,” said Voneschen. “He sits in a leadership position.”
Hsu went to the United States in 1982 and enrolled at the Northeastern University in Boston to pursue a geology degree. But his path turned when he was in graduate school at Boston College.
“My goal was to finish a graduate degree and follow in my father’s footsteps,” Hsu said, explaining that he planned to be a college professor.
“Well, that didn’t happen; ’89 sort of changed that,” he said, referring to the uprising by pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and the resultant deadly crackdown by the Chinese army.
Since Hsu was actively protesting the Chinese government while he was in college, his family in China advised him not to come back, afraid of a possibility of reprisal.
Under an executive order then-President Bush signed after the Tiananmen Square events, Hsu became eligible for political asylum and received permanent residency in the United States. That helped him propose to his longtime American girlfriend without anyone questioning his motives.
Hsu, a program developer with the Minnesota Department of Health, feels he has achieved the American dream since he first came to the country as an optimistic and open-minded 19-year-old. He has visited China twice, in 1995 and 2001, but found much has changed.
“There is nothing left that I remember,” Hsu said, explaining that much of the Beijing suburb where he lived has turned into a bustling town of highways, shopping malls and other buildings.
Hsu is still a Chinese citizen but does not plan to leave America.
“I had a mixed feeling about that one,” he said, explaining it is much easier to visit his family in China with a Chinese passport.
But soon he will have to decide whether to remain a Chinese citizen or apply for American citizenship and stay in the National Guard beyond eight years — the cut-off time for noncitizens.
He has a desire to stay a citizen-soldier and the Guard may want to keep him, too.
“He is the smartest computer guy in this brigade,” said Hsu’s commander, Capt. Jason Good. “Even though he’s just an E-4, the knowledge he brings from his civilian career is amazing. Because of what he knows … he’s made us successful.”