The older I get, the more this day means to me. I am grateful that my parents are strong enough to not only survive, but also share their stories so that my siblings and I never forget why we are Vietnamese Americans.
We do not live in Vietnam, but Vietnam lives in us ♡
46 years ago my mom and her siblings fled Vietnam with just the clothes on their backs, fear on their minds and the will to live free in their hearts.
Though April 30th is a reminder of a war that should have never been fought, of the heroes left behind, and the sacrafices that our families made so we can live free, EVERYDAY should be a reminder that being an American is a privilege that our families shed their blood sweat and tears for.
I know it is hard for some of them, but I encourage those like me, the ones born here in the states to talk to your relatives. Do your research and try to learn and document their stories. Though we were not alive during that era, we are the first generation born on this soil and it is a big part of who we are. I feel like knowing this history drives me through life the most.
Today comes with many emotions for me. As a child of immigrant parents, I still find it difficult to grasp the suffrage that my family endured to get us where we are today. We grew up in households where family dinners were a nightly thing. We always had clothes on our backs and never felt as if we lacked anything. It was not until I grew up that I realized how poor we once were.
My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were only children 46 years ago today. Orphaned overnight, stripped of all they knew, and displaced to places where languages, customs, and lifestyles are unknown.
I received another letter recently from a longtime friend and client of my mother’s. It took me back to junior high when I had written a paper about my time with my grandfather while visiting Vietnam for the first time. My grandfather was ill and my parents, aunts, and uncles decided it was time we met the man that sacrificed so much for us to be in the US. I wish I could find it because it meant so much to me, but I will never forget his words or how he made me feel.
I recall sitting on a hammock on his farm as I listened to him weep about the fall of Saigon. A military man, an undercover agent for the American consulate, and a South Vietnam official, he was an immediate target. His efforts to flee with the family failed and he and my grandmother were separated from their children; 7 of 9 whom were able to flee to the Philippines where the US Navy picked them up and brought them to the US. Left behind with my grandmother and 2 of his children. After hiding and surviving in the jungles for 3 years and changing his name to pardon death, he managed to build a farm around the craters carved from B-52 bombers . It would be years before they received word from one another to even confirm survival of this day.
In 1979, a priest who studied with my great uncle connected with family in the states and were able to confirm that my grandparents and aunt and uncle had survived and were well.
That's the cliff notes version of my family history, but I would like to share the words my grandfather reiterated before he passed with the generations that follow us:
"You are privileged beyond your relatives here (VN). You have been born in a place that allows you to be whomever you desire to be. Take the opportunities that you are given and be the best you absolutely can be. Make us proud and make it worth all the pain and suffering your family has endured to allow you to be an American."
Today, I am proud of my generation. We are business owners, college graduates, and productive bilingual Americans. I will always wonder to myself what he thinks as he watches over us as the first generation of his blood in the US.
As Vietnamese Americans, we are resilient, but to achieve more, we must acknowledge the history and the sacrifices of our families that continue to this day in communist Vietnam.
May God watch over our families back home and we never forget how we came to call ourselves Vietnamese Americans.
Thank you Mrs. Bettie for reminding me yet again of how important this week is to my family. No matter where this life takes me, I will never forget those that sacrificed to get me here.
With all my ♡,