Henry Liu is the first reenactor of the Lexington Minute Men s Chinese-American War of Independence

My first job, at age 14, was to work as a waitress in a colonial-themed restaurant called “The Pewter Pot”. I served the tourists Patriot Fries and Franklin Burgers, sometimes in a beanie and some sort of rough dress.

It sounds strange, but in my town – Lexington, Massachusetts – it was considered normal. Known as “the cradle of American freedom,” Lexington is a tourist town. Only instead of the black sand beaches we have, you know, the chair that George Washington sat on when he visited the Monroe Tavern in 1789.

The real draw, however, takes place every year on what is called “Patriots Day”, When thousands of people flood Lexington Green to see the first battle of the War of Independence come to life.

When I was in high school, many of my friend’s fathers participated in the reenactment. But even though my parents have lived in Lexington for over 35 years, we came here as immigrants, and I never could have imagined my Daddy as Lexington Minute Man. With their antique guns and tricorn hats, I just assumed that the Men Minutes were kind of a WASPY, blue-blood, old-boy-club – you know, carrying on the age-old tradition of keeping strangers … out.

That’s why I was surprised when I heard about Henry Liu. Henry’s parents were both born in China, but he was born in Massachusetts and has lived in Lexington most of his life. For the past 24 years, he has also been a musket-bearer member of the Lexington Minute Men.

“I remember going to the reenactments,” he told me. “I have browsed photo albums and seen pictures of myself dressed as a young Minute Man.”

Although he is a great history buff, Henry’s decision to to rejoin the Minute Men had more to do with his wife. Her brother, stepfather, and stepbrother were all members of the Minute Men.

“So the greeting when we got together for family things was always, ‘Oh hi Linda, how are you? And Henry, when are you joining? And I was still laughing and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right, you really want a Chinese Minute Man in the line,’ “said Henry.

It turns out that, yes, they made.

“You know, it’s pretty funny, because, you know, a lot of people ask me, they thought you had to be a descendant or a son of the American Revolution to be a member and it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Still, given Henry’s initial reservations, it would have been easy to get a role behind the scenes. Of more than 100 members, only 77 Minute Men enter the field, and many of them spend the battle face down, eating grass. Instead, Henry decided to own it. As he explains:

“From 2004 to 2006, I played Captain Parker. And I met people who witnessed this re-enactment, and they still looked at me and left, you were Captain Parker at the time? And I’m like, Yeah! It’s someone standing in front of the company, telling the men what to do. Standing in front, you know, you’re very visible, ”says Henry.

“We stand on the ground where the battle really took place, representing these real people who were there. And I think the time is coming back, and people don’t see Asians or blacks or anything. They see people in uniform, in militia uniforms and they are there to piece together the story.

What’s strange is not that Lexington has a Chinese-American Minute Man, but that there isn’t one. Following of them. Since graduating from high school, the Asian American population in Lexington has doubled to 20%.

Henry also noticed the change.

“In fact, when I walk down the street in my colonial clothes and see an Asian family looking at me, I hope someone says to me, ‘Wait a minute, you don’t have to be. know, a Son of the American Revolution to join? Can you be Chinese and be in this business? ‘ And sort of spark that conversation.

In the meantime, Henry maintains the tradition of recruiting from within – his son is already a member of the Fife and Drum Corps, with the dream of one day representing William Diamond on the battlefield.

I was right about one thing, though – the Minute Men are an old boys club. Or at least a boys’ club. You can be an Asian American Parker Captain, but you still have to be a U.S. citizen. And you must be a guy.

When I asked Henry if a woman already had has tried to join the Minute Men, he said no. Well, maybe this story proves it, there is a first time for everything.

As for my own story, when I visit my parents in Lexington, I always go to The Pewter Pot – only it’s a Thai restaurant now, called Lemon Grass.

And believe me, it’s definitely a sign of progress.

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