AAPI Story :“This is how I serve my country”

By Joe Luu

Robert Loo was born in Los Angeles, CA on October 18, 1947. This 5’ 4” 140 pounds, Chinese-born American grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles. Frequently, he was bullied by other races because he was an Asian minority.

Thanks to his fluent English, the perpetrators respected him and left him alone and pick on other victims.

“They just leave me the hell alone when they learned that I can speak fluent English” bragged Loo. He learned quickly to adapt when faced with danger.  Growing up, he worked at odds jobs to make ends meet, such as a gas station attendant and as a butcher at his family meat packing business.

Loo in rifle training, Marine Boot Camp

Loo went to Manual Arts School located off at Vermont Ave and 41st Drive from 1962 to 1965. After high school, he enrolled in a LA Trade Tech college majoring in mechanical engineering. He was drafted in December of 1967 during his 2nd year in tech college because of the Vietnam War conflict.

Robert Loo

He was given a choice to join any branch of the military but instead, he chose the Marines.  He stated, “If I am going to get drafted, at least served in the most lethal branch”. When he was in Marine Boot Camp at Camp Pendleton, his drill instructors teased and called him “Gook”, “Chink”, and even “Ho Chi Minh”.

He laughed it off even though it was offensive because he joined the United States Marines, not the Chinese or Vietnamese Marines. Fortunately for Loo, he ended up working as a vehicle mechanic for a Marine Reserve Unit for the duration of the war. He loaded trucks, military supplies, etc. on C5s, military aircraft, at El Toro Marine Base in Orange County.

Loo in  training, Marine Boot Camp

The sergeant in charge of the loading operation told everyone that if they showed up late or miss a day at work, he will ship them to Vietnam instead. Loo made sure that he showed up on time ever after. He was there early every day. He jokingly said, “No, thanks Sergeant, I rather ship military parts to Nam than ship myself to Nam and ended up in many parts”.

Robert is second from the right at American Legion Post 628 in Chinatown, Los Angeles

Since he was a Chinese American, the military also offered him a position in military intelligence. It was a position to spy in Mainland China. The job had an incentive of $10,000 per tour to include room and board. It was a deal hard to decline.  His army buddy took the assignment. After a few months in China, the Chinese government sent his left arm back to his parent’s house in California. His buddy died serving his country.

Robert whispered to me, “Uncle Sam can keep his 10k and shove it up his butt, I rather keep my arms, legs, and my eyes so that I can continue shipping military equipment to Nam, this is how I serve my country”. He politely denied the offer. He served honorable for 8 years in the Marine Corp and rose to the rank of Corporal.

Pat and Robert

Mr. Loo retired with honor at Northrop Grumman in Palmdale in October of 2000 after 31 years of service. He has no children but a supportive girlfriend name Pat. Robert just recently recovered from an emergency operation in September of 2022. He resides at a nursing home in Temple City, CA.

When asked, what words of advice you would give to people? Robert smiled and replied “Your health is important, take care of it now before it is too late.”

Loo was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He mentioned that he does not know when God is going to release him to Heaven but when the time is up he is ready.

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