Michael Tang – Citizen Soldier, Fraternity Brother

When Michael Tang ’21 enrolled at Temple, he already committed to serve his state and country in the Pennsylvania National Guard. Military service appealed to his sense of duty, desire for structure, and need for veteran’s benefits. In his college years and after, he would be a citizen soldier who found himself activated for some unexpected events.

“The most fun I never want to have again.”

Michael was initially influenced by his high school Biology teacher, a former TOW gunner in the Army, who told him that the Army helped to “straighten him out.” 

Michael said jokingly, “It sounded cool. I envisioned myself courageously kicking down doors and shooting things…. or maybe my recruiter entrapped me?”

He said, “Financially it made sense. I didn’t want to rely on my parents,” who are first generation immigrants from Vietnam. His decision to join surprised them, but not in a good way. 

Like a typical soldier, he had his gripes. He described basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia as, “the most fun I never want to have again. It was hot and wet all the time.”

Oh the placed you’ll go 

Michael had some interesting deployments over his years in the National Guard. In 2020 during the George Floyd protests Micheal found his unit, the 1/111th Infantry regiment (who trace their roots to a militia organized by Ben Franklin), activated and assigned to protect Center City Philly — a five-minute subway ride from his fraternity house. 

His unit was briefly trained for crowd control, and stationed at the Masonic Temple just across the street from City Hall. It was too close to home for comfort, but thankfully, police had already handled the majority of unlawful activities. 

He volunteered to play the “bad guy” at Fort Polk in live combat training using non-lethal MILES gear (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System), which is like laser tag with M16s shooting blanks. He said, “most active duty infantry have to do it, and hate it for its tropical Vietnam-like climate, but I did it because I wanted to experience it at least once.”

Michael also had the opportunity to meet soldiers from Hungary, England, Colombia, and Lithuania in joint training exercises. As an enlisted man who is typically discouraged from consorting with officers, he enjoyed meeting a Colombian special forces Major who shared his experiences and was “super chill.”

His unit traveled to Europe to help train the army of North Macedonia a year before their initiation into NATO, and his platoon was selected to perform for Macedonian TV in a mock mission with other NATO nations. At the end of the exercise he was able to shake hands with the President of Macedonia along with their Prime Minister and Secretary.

Brothers in Arms

Michael says he made great friends in the service and always appreciated the camaraderie they developed. He said, “we still check in on each other.”  He called his military service “fraternity like” and compared it to the bonds he made in Pi Lambda Phi.

He said, “Ultimately, I’m glad I did it. I made a lot of friends and it changed how I look at things.”

He continues to serve in the Air National Guard where he is seeking tech opportunities that he can use in the private sector.

Pilam and looking forward

Michael was introduced to Pi Lambda Phi by a couple of friends from his hometown. After he joined, he lived in the chapter house on Broad Street and said, “there was always something to do, and I got really close to my brothers.”

He is still tight with his classmates and currently lives in California with a Pilam brother. Michael has a degree in Film and Media Arts and is interested in working in the film and entertainment industry. He has a passion for photography and is working on a screen play.

Support Pilam veterans

The Lt. General Keith Dayton Military Service Scholarship is open to Pilam undergraduates who are veterans, currently serving in the national guard or reserve, or in an ROTC program.