Story by Sgt. Luke Kuennen
U.S. Marines with Detachment 4th Force Reconnaissance Company staged themselves outside the unit’s paraloft aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Aug. 14, 2020; they had just received word that the helicopters that would carry them on a special insertion/extraction exercise were 15 minutes out.
A lance corporal sheepishly approached the unit platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Michael Wong. The young Marine rendered the proper greeting of the day, came to a rigid parade rest, and dutifully presented an issue all too familiar to platoon sergeants across the Marine Corps: he had forgotten some gear at home.
Staff Sgt. Wong pursed his lips and shook his head. “At our house, or at the barracks?”
Michael Wong exhibits all of the signature traits of a native Hawaiian; his face, deeply tanned, bears the lines hewn by countless grins and years of exposure to the equatorial sun. He pronounces “Hawai’i” with the trademark lilt between vowels, but above all, he exudes the friendly pride that is the legacy of the islanders’ culture.
“When I first enlisted, I was looking to travel the world and see exotic places,” Wong said, chuckling. “They sent me back to Kaneohe–I grew up across the street in Kailua.”
Enlisted as a Reconnaissance Marine, it was inevitable that Wong’s wish to travel in the Marine Corps would be fulfilled. In his career, he had the opportunity to tour the Pacific, Japan, Africa, and Central America. Eventually, however, Wong sought to return to Oahu to start a family, he said. “I got out just prior to getting married,” Wong said. “I know that a lot of people in the military are able to do their job when they have little children, but I just knew that wasn’t me.”
Michael’s son, Lance Cpl. Aiden Wong, is a near spitting image of his father; he inherited his charismatic smile, bronze skin, and wind-blown, jet black hair—only it’s a little longer, and not yet tinged with streaks of silver. “Growing up, I was always around the Marine Corps,” Aiden said. “When I was 11 and my dad got back in, I’d always be at the detachment with him.
”Michael laughed recalling his decision to re-enter service in the Marine Corps. “I never thought I would come back in, but with age comes memory loss, and you forget about all of the bad stuff,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘I still have a little bit left in me,’ and I wanted to pass on a little of the knowledge I have to the younger generation.”
Michael’s influence on his son extended beyond being a Marine alone; Aiden also inherited his father’s desire to be a Reconnaissance Marine. “I never really thought about actually joining until senior year of high school,” Aiden said. “A lot of people follow the footsteps of their fathers, and I feel like I’m taking it to the next level. I’m not only following his footsteps, but I’m following his orders at the detachment.”
Along the way, Aiden has run into a bit of bad luck, he said. “I went to basic reconnaissance primer course in 2019, but I was medically dropped for double stress fractures in both my tibia and my knee,” Aiden said. “As of now, I’m just training to go back.”
Until he recovers fully from his injury and finishes the extremely demanding Basic Reconnaissance Course, Aiden won’t be awarded the military occupational specialty of Reconnaissance Marine.
In the meantime, serving as a reconnaissance rover under his father has its own unique challenges, Aiden said. “I live with my platoon sergeant–I call him ‘staff sergeant dad,’” Aiden said with a laugh. “It comes with its pros and cons. I get information a lot quicker because I can just go up to his room and ask him what’s happening, but he’s always on my back, making sure I’m staying in shape, training, everything like that.”
Michael says it can get confusing around the detachment with his son around. “I think the hardest part is when somebody yells out ‘Wong,’ we don’t know who they’re calling,” Michael said, laughing again. “But it works. We still joke around together. He’s a good kid, and a good Marine.”
Aiden says despite their ability to still have fun, he hasn’t forgotten his goals. “There’s a huge amount of pressure. All of my dad’s friends that he’s known since the 80’s who are Recon Marines message me all of the time, they ask me how my training is going, they’re ready and expect me to finish,” Aiden said, growing serious. “At the same time, it’s a good thing. My dad expects me to finish, and I expect myself to finish. It’s just something I want to do to make him proud.”