As an enlisted soldier with 1st Cavalry Division back in the 1990s, I never ventured to the Chinese restaurant in Killeen known as Taiwan Dragon.
If I had, I’m sure it would have made a lasting impression then, just as it did last week when I went to the restaurant for the first time.
It’s tucked in on Avenue G, a block away from the busy East Memorial Veterans Boulevard. On the outside, it’s not much different than other Chinese restaurants. It’s a white building with red trim.
On the inside, however, it’s a virtual museum of Fort Hood and Army history … in addition to being a good place for General Tso’s chicken and fried egg rolls.
The owner, Jackson Huang, has been decorating the inside walls of the restaurant for about 30 years with photos of soldiers, generals and other VIPs who periodically visit the eatery. The walls are a photographic roll call of troops who have come and gone, led units at the Great Place and moved on to bigger things.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, for example, is pictured multiple times. Other familiar Army current and former generals can be seen, too: Funk, Dempsey, Campbell and more.
On Tuesday, a group of us ventured to Huang’s restaurant for lunch, and after we had been sitting for a bit, he greeted us with a friendly smile and his red laser pointer.
“Where you from?”
“Killeen Daily Herald.”
A sense of knowing appeared in Huang’s eyes and he quickly turned his head and pointed the laser at a picture on the opposite side of the restaurant.
“Sue Mayborn,” he said.
Indeed, it was a picture of Sue Mayborn, editor and publisher of the Killeen Daily Herald.
Huang also gave us each a pen — a tool we can’t have enough of in our profession — that had the restaurant’s address and phone number on it. The pens also had a small flashlight on one end, which was pretty cool. I brought mine home for my daughter.
Later, we bumped into Huang again as we were paying for our meals. I noticed a display case with a few hundred military commemorative coins that Huang had collected over the years.
“That’s a pretty good coin collection,” I said to Rose Thayer, our military editor.
Huang indicated he has four such display cases, all overflowing with coins, which I’d wager is probably a bigger collection than even some generals have.
All told, Taiwan Dragon left a lasting impression on me, but the real impression came from Huang. I’d wager he’s left a lasting impression on thousands of soldiers over the years.
And the walls of his restaurant prove it.