An immigrant succeeds through his support of the military
When my friend described Jackson Huang and his restaurant, I thought she was aggrandizing for storytelling effect. Upon meeting Jackson, as everyone calls him, I realized that the Killeen, Texas, icon lives up to his over-the-top reputation.
This restaurateur often knows the military’s top brass comings-and-goings even before command does, says my friend, who retired a few years ago from Killeen’s Fort Hood. Some 10 percent of U.S. Army troops are stationed at this post. Texas, meanwhile, has the largest veteran population of any state.
When the current Army chief of staff visited Fort Hood, he said he didn’t need to meet with anyone other than those with whom he had direct business. He did, however, want to eat at Taiwan Dragon and see Jackson again.
So, back to Jackson and his Taiwan Dragon restaurant. We’ve all visited restaurants with walls crowded with photos of VIPs dining in the establishment. Never before, though, had I seen an eatery adorned to this extent, and by this nation’s military leaders. And that’s despite a 2003 fire, which destroyed the eatery and forced Jackson to rebuild.
Instantly as my friend and I walked into the Taiwan Dragon restaurant this week, Jackson pounced, as he does with everyone who steps through his doors. As always, Jackson’s immediate need was to know if he had a new “big wig” to photograph, frame and add to his walls — somewhere.
It’s a question Jackson, the epitome of an immigrant success story, has been asking since opening his Taiwan Dragon in 1981. Jackson, who satisfied his required Taiwanese military service and served in the Military Police Corps for the Chinese Army, came to the United States with the help of his sister and brother-in-law, who was stationed at Fort Hood. Jackson later worked as a cook for the Fort Hood Officers’ Club.
“No, she’s just my friend,” our mutual friend explained to the expectant Jackson. “No big wig tonight.”
No matter. A proud Jackson jumped into an encyclopedic review of the generals and other military VIPs who have patronized his Taiwan Dragon.
He proceeded to pull out his photo album, newspaper clippings and even a portable DVD player to show us the ceremony a year ago at which he received Fort Hood’s Good Neighbor award, which the Army post bestows on up to three recipients annually in recognition for their support of this local post. Jackson said he spent two weeks practicing that 2012 speech.
Upon hearing that until recently I was a business reporter, Jackson even honored me — despite my lack of military service — by asking me to add my signature to his book of big wigs.