Vietnamese American: The Best Outcome of Vietnam War

by Nguyen Y Duc, M.D.

The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation

The 5th Triennial Vietnam Symposium at the Viet Nam Center

Texas Tech University – March 17-20, 2005

There was a long discussion by the principal parties who were involved in the Vietnam War about the shape of the table used for The Paris International Conference in 1972. The conference was formed with the efforts of ending the long and costly war for all sides. The proposals ran from 2 sides, to 4 sides, and ended up with an oval shape. The reason for the issue coming up was all sides wanted their recognition as a principal party and their rights is addressed in the negotiation. The discussion was who was really fighting with whom? Were Americans fighting against The North Vietnamese? Or was The South Republic of Vietnam fighting against North Vietnam with the help of the Americans.  Additionally, how did The National Liberation Front of South Vietnam fit into the picture?  Was it a puppet of North Vietnam?  Or it is an independent force?

At the time, the efforts to satisfy a table requirement seems ridiculous and trivia, but they represent the difficulty in reconciling all sides involved in the conflict. The Paris treaty offered an exit for American military adventure, sealed the fate of her ally -South Vietnamese, and warranted a hollow victory for her adversary -North Vietnam. Looking back with a calm and more mature observation, the treaty marked the end of an area of painful losses for all sides involved in the nightmarish war. Regardless of the war negative impacts, this paper aims to focus on the positive outcome of the war. An outcome confirms our hope and belief in freedom and humanity. That positive outcome is the existence and growth of the Diasporas Vietnamese integration into the world nations, particularly the Vietnamese Americans.

There is no winner in Vietnam War

No matter what side you are on, in our opinion, there was no winner in the Vietnam War:  America lost over 50,000 lives, billions of dollars, her reputation as a trustful ally, and the unity of her citizens for decades. The so-called National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, supported by North Vietnam, who claimed to have won, lost millions lives. This Liberation Front was forced to disband completely one year after the war was over. Some of their leaders can still be seen in the current Vietnamese Communist Governments, mostly in unimportant positions, others have completely disappeared from public sight. North Vietnam, who also claimed to have won, also lost countless lives. The hollow triumph brought the power and privilege to a small number within the Communist party.  These members have gotten rich and powerful, but the vast majority of the over 80 million Vietnamese People are living in poverty and hopeless future. Per capita income in Viet Nam is $220 and disparities in income are large and growing. In addition, the collapse of the International Communist System in Russia and Eastern Europe, the failure of a communist economics in Viet Nam has bought the Communist Vietnam to its knees. According to a report of the United Nations, from 1983 to 1985, there was an un-reported famine in Vietnam that killed thousands of people, especially people in the countryside. This was due to the fact that the Vietnamese government instituted a series of domestic policies that brought the country to the brink of starvation. The most significant of these policies was the collectivization of agriculture in the South. This policy proved to be a terrific failure and crop yields declined dramatically.

 In recent years, the Communist Vietnamese Government has been adopting a program known as “Doi moi”. This movement originated in Russia, and is an attempt to improve the Vietnamese Economy and to strengthen their relationship with the free world. As a result, the standard of living for the Vietnamese people has marginally improved. However, the Communist Regime’s fear of loosing power has over ridden the need of a fundamental change. This same change could help Vietnam take off and move forward as a modern and prosperous country. Today, Vietnam is one of the last four Communist countries left, and it is also one of the poorest countries in the world.

 Out of the conflict, the South Republic of Vietnam also lost over 200,000 service men and women along with their powers of government, freedom, economy, education, finance, media, culture, and even religion. These important elements in their lives were either thrown out or made illegal. Thousands of South Vietnamese Military Personnel, Government Officers and other opponents of the Communist Government were imprisoned for decades. Many of them died while in prison due to malnutrition, torture, and general lack of health care.

The best outcome of the Vietnam War

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, in our opinion, the only group of people who had a positive outcome was the Vietnamese Americans) and others Vietnamese communities in the free world) After the fall of Saigon in April 1975, the United Stated extended its generous hand, accepting thousands of Vietnamese refugees as citizens of this great nation.

a-   The history:

Before 1975, only a few thousand Vietnamese people lived in America. The majority of whom were spouses of American civilians, military personnel that served in South Vietnam, and students or members of the Vietnamese diplomatic corps.  Since April 30th, 1975, the number of Vietnamese refugees in America has increased rapidly, up 150% in the 80s and 90s. According to the most recent count from the State Department, Vietnamese residents in America account for 1,5millions persons, behind the Chinese (2,400,000), Filipinos (1,800,000), and Indians (1,600,000), and ahead of the Koreans (1,000,000). This figure has made the Vietnamese American the fourth largest minority group in the US. Over half of the group population is concentrated in the states of California, Texas, Louisiana and Maryland.

b-   “Freedom or die” Courage

Vietnamese American initially fled their native homeland after the North Vietnamese communist invasion of the South Viet Nam in 1975.  Their means of exodus include ocean escapes on tiny boats, or walking through deadly battlefields of Cambodia and Laos between 1978, to 1995.  Others came to the US through programs authorized by US Government as a result of thousands of Vietnamese perished on the high sea or in the jungles of Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand. There were many waves of Vietnamese who determined to seek for liberty and freedom from political oppression.

Right before the collapse of South Vietnam, a certain number of people with connections with the American Government were given permission to leave. This included members of the South Vietnamese military who had connections with either the American Embassy or the General Headquarters of the American Army in Saigon. This group of immigrants is estimated at 150,000 left the country by plane.

After that, another wave, accounted for another 150,000, escaped by boat and were subsequently rescued by the allied forces beyond the territorial waters of Vietnam during the period between 1975, and 1978.

From 1978, to 1982, a repressive movement was raging in Vietnam against Vietnamese people of Chinese descent, and thus resulted in another wave of refugees. This wave included people of Vietnamese and Chinese decent. They left by sea, and in ships of all sizes. They were categorized as “boat people,” and they risked their lives for freedom. Their slogan was:” Freedom or die.”  They escaped in the hopes of reaching any free neighboring coastal region such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand or Singapore. In fighting for their survival, many went to their deaths. Most did not live long enough to see any coastline at all. Entire families were wiped out by angry hurricanes, as bait to the roving sharks, or were raped and killed by pirates. According to the United States High Commissioner for Refugees, there was an estimated 700,000 Vietnamese escapees perished at sea during those years.

Once on solid land, survivors were gathered into refugee camps where they lived in destitute and extreme anxiety while waiting for approval to enter third countries. This group accounts for about 500,000 people.

c-   The Generous and the Compassion Fatigue

The unprecedented and dismal exodus raised international concerns. Many third countries in Asia, who helped to hold the Vietnamese refugees while they were waiting to settle in final country, addressed their fatigue of dealing with a large number of refugees from Vietnam. The US Government, United Nations, and other countries had numerous multi-lateral negotiations resulting in humanitarian programs for orderly departure, such as the Orderly Departure, the Home Coming Act, the Program for Unaccompanied Minors and the Humanitarian Program for Former Political Detainees were formed. From then on, Vietnamese refugees were given permission to settle in America for family reunification of offspring of American citizens or offspring of political refugees.

This latter group accounted for over 300,000 and is also called Humanitarian Operation (HO). In 1988, President Ronald Reagan personally signed a decree allowing entry into America to all Vietnamese ex-prisoners who had endured at least three years of re-education. They included Vietnamese military and civilian members at all levels, sent to concentration camps by the Communist Regime after the fall of South Vietnam. Depended on their former ranks and contributions, their prison terms ranged from a few months to 15 years. They were isolated in these camps, which were scattered all over the country. Severe restrictive measures and even torture was applied to these prisoners. After a day of hard manual labor for their own keep, they had to attend evening classes to be indoctrinated with Marxist and Leninist theories in order to remove any “imperialistic residue” from their minds. By best estimates, at least 65,000 persons were executed for political reasons between 1975 and 1983 according to many studies.

d-   The Contributions

Vietnamese American contribution to the American landscape is not just one of population.

Like many previous immigrants, Vietnamese Americans have overcome their painful experiences, utilized their rich culture and work ethic to achieve the American dream. For the first ten years, countless stories attracted the attention of this nation to the hardship of Vietnamese immigrants who worked very hard to overcome their language and cultural barriers.  Though the struggle of Vietnamese Americans to integrate into American Society continues, the story of the Vietnamese American experience are now replete with success. To name a few examples:

-Nguyet Anh Duong was the inventor of the bunker buster bomb that help American troop won the battlefield in Afghanistan.

-Nguyen Dat plays linebacker for the NFL Dallas Cowboys.

–     Nguyen Hung Viet contributed his research to power NASA Columbia space shuttle.

-Dinh Viet was appointed as the Deputy of US Justice Department in President Bush’s first term.

-Mina Nguyen was appointed as Director of Public Relation of Labor Department.

-Truong Hong Son is one the most respectful scholars at NASA.

One can go on and on about the achievements of Vietnamese Americans. To Vietnamese Americans, working hard and being successful was one way to express their gratitude to the generosity of the American people who have embraced them as true members of the American family. Vietnamese Americans have strived to enrich every sector of American society. From the economy, to education, to culture to the arts and sports, Vietnamese Americans have set their footprints and made a positive impact on the American Landscape. Vietnamese Americans are also making positive contributions to the War in Iraq. Many Vietnamese Americans in the United States armed forces are defending freedom on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the globe. They have enjoyed the American glory, prosperity and also share the global burdens and responsibilities that the US has under taken.

The success of Vietnamese Americans also benefits Vietnam. Vietnamese Americans have added an estimate of 5 – 8 billion dollars yearly to the Vietnamese economy.

While living comfortable lives in US, Vietnamese American still have compassion for there loved ones in Vietnam. Gifts to their loved ones accounted for over 3 billions US dollars via conventional monetary transfer sources such as banks, and financial institutions. Vietnamese American investing in Vietnam is still quite small- about 200 million/year- compared with its ability of 22 billions/year. The reason for this gap is due to the humanitarian conditions in Vietnam. Most fundamental human rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of organization, etc… are still denied daily in Vietnam. Moreover, the unfair competition between state owned and private owned companies are so great that the chance for successful foreign investment is next to impossible. Most of all, the inconsistent and insincere policies of the Vietnamese Government toward the Vietnamese communities overseas is the biggest obstacle for enthusiastic investment by Vietnamese Americans to invest in Vietnam.

In the past, the Vietnamese Communist Government has labeled Vietnamese Americans as “traitors” or “criminals”. Now with their economic success, Vietnamese Americans have become “patriots” or “a far away brother and sister”. Whatever their label, the annual income of the 2 million Vietnamese Americans equated to the national income of the entire country of Vietnam, which has a population of 80 million people. Citing this sad fact is not to show off the Vietnamese American records, but to contrast a difference between a free and oppressed society and their influences on the lives and abilities of their citizens. The younger generations of Vietnamese Americans are highly educated and experienced in many critical fields and industries. This knowledge and skill filters back to Vietnam and not only helps Vietnam to re-integrate into the world economy, but will also force Vietnam towards a more free and prosperous country.

Treasure our History

This year, while we are celebrating the 30th year of freedom for over 2 millions Vietnamese Americans, we also look back to our 30 years of history to appreciate the efforts, sacrifice, and achievements of the first generation of Vietnamese Americans. We are proud to say that the Vietnamese American History is a story of courage, determination, and achievement. We want to save this treasured story for the younger generation of Vietnamese Americans and for generations to come. 

The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation has in our possession over 200,000 pages of documents. Our members and other individuals in Vietnamese American Community donated these documents. There are tens of thousands of pages of documents, letters, pictures related to the exodus from Vietnamese.  There are thousand of pages that capture the experiences of the boat people who escaped under the watch of the Vietnamese Communist Government, and faced the dangers of ocean and pirates. There are thousands of other pages describing life in communist prisons, thousand of pages recording the efforts of lobbying with American Legislators, Administrators, and other US government agencies, as well as the Vietnamese Government to in hopes of achieving freedom.  In some cases these efforts are still on going.

Unlike other immigrant groups that have their roots planted deep back pass to the sacrifices for freedom in the Civil War and War for Independence, our bloodshed was in our journey to get here.  However, we do have to struggle for our existence. In the US, there was endless lobbying work with the Legislator, the Administrations, and the Department of Justice to convince them that there are the good reasons to embrace Vietnamese Refugees. These efforts also required a smart strategy and much patience from the Vietnamese American Community in the last three decades.

One still can remember when Ms. Khuc Minh Tho, the chairwoman of The Family Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA) and other Vietnamese American organizations asked the Vietnamese Communist Government to free all political prisoners and let them settle in US, the Vietnamese Communist Government loudly denied this request and announced: “there were no political prisoners in Vietnam”. Through the contacts of family members of these prisoners, FVPPA enlisted a number of prisons through out Vietnam documenting political prisoners that were held in these camps.

The International Red Cross visited these camps later and confirmed that there are tens of thousands of political prisoners in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Communist Government since then has sit down to officially negotiation the issue of political prisoners in Vietnam. This discussion resulted in the Humanitarian Program introduced by Resolution 205 to President Reagan by Senator Edward Kennedy (Democrat), and Senator Robert Dole (Republican) on January 5, 1987. There were more than 30 Congressmen and Congresswomen of both parties, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Robert Fun Seth that worked as the principal negotiators to introduce Resolution 212 on September 1987. The agreement was signed on July 30, 1989, by both the US and Vietnamese Communist Government. Solution 212 became the fundamental legal document to free Vietnamese political prisoners and settle them and their families to the US.

There are many other stories of Vietnamese Americans who struggled and overcome their hurdles to have a productive and successful life. These stories need to be shared to empower both younger generations of Vietnamese American and Americans alike. These treasures must be preserved and passed on.

Conclusion

In the essence of these efforts, The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation is honored to announce that the Vietnam Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, is helping us to build a Vietnamese American Archive. It is our hope that, through this archive and the center’s support, our unique story and history will be preserved. This archive is not just for Vietnamese Americans, but it is a chronicle that captures the spirit of freedom common to all Americans, and therefore is meant for all Americans.

The Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation wishes to keep in touch with you so that we can share the progress of this project. Thank you and God bless!

Reprint with permission of Nguyen Y Duc, MD, and Vietnamese Heritage Foundation

Administrator’s Note

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”       – Thomas Paine –

If Thomas Paine were alive today, he would undoubtedly give this young woman a nice pat on the back for what she has said and done.  This young woman is Anh Duong, an American of Vietnamese descent who came to America in 1975 as a refugee at the age of 15.  After graduating from Montgomery Blair High School with honors, she earned a degree, also with honors, in chemical engineering at the University of Maryland in 1982.  Anh Duong took a job at the U.S. Naval base in Indian Head, MD where she subsequently became the program manager for explosives at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.  She is an internationally recognized expert and the focal point for virtually all explosives research in the US Navy.  She has helped develop nearly a dozen high-performance compounds that are packed into Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps warheads.

Being an American of Vietnamese descent myself, I feel so proud and honored to be her countryman.  I am so pleased to know she is a strong and patriotic American in spite of domestic and international criticism. I am extremely proud of her extraordinary scientific achievements but I respect her more for being a person with high moral standard and a grateful citizen to her adopted country.

Bomb Lady:

 Vietnamese American Makes Tools for War on TerrorEditor’s Note:  A former Vietnamese boat person is now a top explosives scientist for the military and the developer of the controversial “thermobaric” bomb.


She’s afraid of blood. Otherwise she would have been a doctor. But she almost passed out in high school zoology when forced to dissect, she says, “some small animal.” To preserve her perfect GPA, she dropped the course.

She was good in math and chemistry, and got a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland and another degree in computer science just for kicks. After that she asked herself: “What should I be doing with my life?” The answer was unexpected: Nguyet Anh Duong, now mother of four and a former Vietnamese boat person, became arguably the best bomb maker in the world.

When the Vietnam War ended and communist tanks rolled into Saigon, Duong, then 15, and her family escaped to sea on a crowded boat. Amid the churning waves, they had to jump from their small boat onto a ship that would take them to a refugee camp in the Philippines. Duong replays the moment in her mind — a misstep meant being crushed between the two vessels. “It’s a miracle that I’m here at all,” she says.

She’s here, and thriving. Duong now supervises one of the world’s best teams of explosives scientists, more than half of whom are women, at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Md. Thirteen of 15 explosive weapons commonly used by the U.S. military are developed at Indian Head.

The bomb that Duong is most proud of is BLU118/B, termed the “thermobaric” bomb by the Pentagon. It was specifically built to destroy Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda hideouts in the mountains of Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Her team had two months to make it. About a hundred scientists and engineers were involved.

It’s a terrifying device. The thermobaric bomb crushes caves with a super-hot blast that can destroy internal organs as far as a quarter-mile away. Its explosion is designed to tunnel through convoluted caves and pulverize anyone hiding as deep as 1,100 feet inside, and then incinerate whatever remains.

Human rights activists have called the bomb “thermo-barbaric.” Greenpeace called for its ban, likening it to nuclear weapons without the radiation. One Russian scientist said the bombs cause small earthquakes, a claim U.S. geologists dismissed as ridiculous.

Duong is undeterred by the criticism. “We’ve gotten more sophisticated compared to the old days of dumb weapons,” she says. “Now you can deliver it exactly where you want it to go. Our strong wish is to avoid as much collateral damage as possible.”

But all bombs are designed to kill. How does Duong reconcile her job with the consequences of her creation?

“I’m not on the operation side,” she says quickly, not missing a beat. “We don’t deal with human fatality. That’s another field.”

She pauses. “Look, the way I see it is simple. There are a lot of bad guys in the world. The best defense is offense. If you’re not strong you’re going to die.”

Perhaps it’s a lesson from her past. Duong grew up in South Vietnam, a country that, near the end of the Vietnam War, was abandoned by the United States, while Soviet fighter jets and Chinese-made weapons continued to flow unimpeded to the communist North. After holding on for two years, the government in Saigon surrendered on April 30, 1975, and over 2 million Vietnamese subsequently fled overseas.

“If you are weak you will lose, it’s a simple fact,” Duong says.

Duong says she wishes that the United States never had to go to war. “But if war is inevitable,” she says, “if we’re going to send troops, we want to make sure that a lot of them will come back. And we better equip them with the best weapons.”

A strong patriotism informs Duong’s work. Making explosives “is something to give back to the country that gave me so much. My family and I, we feel strongly that we were given a second chance coming to the United States.”

A recent multilingual poll by the New California Media, a consortium of ethnic and in-language press, found that up to 85 percent of Vietnamese Americans backed the U.S. war in Iraq.

Asked what she would have done had she not gone into the sciences, Duong says, “I always wanted to be a writer. Every now and then, when the seasons change, I look out my office window and have to resist the impulse to grab pen and paper to write some poetry.”

But for now, Duong is working on other weapons projects. For security reasons she can’t discuss them in detail, but she does mention one, a sort of “dial-a-yield” bomb. “It’s the next stage of guided weapons. Say there are terrorists taking over a hospital and they are on the fourth floor, and there are patients of the 15th floor. Ideally, the explosive device would be regulated to explode in a way that would destroy that floor, and not the entire building.”

Courtesy:   Andrew Lam at Pacific News Service (PNS).

Andrew Lam is an editor with Pacific News Service. His new book, "Perfume Dreams: 
Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora" will be published in October 2005. 

©Vietnamese & American Veterans of the Vietnam War, 2005 All Rights Reserved

Highlighting the U.S. Asian Pacific AmericanHeritage month of May Vietnamese-American U.S. Army Captain James Van Thach was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal forestablishing a base called Combat Outpost Shocker in Iraq.

New York City, NY (PRWEB)May 1, 2010 — Over the past few years I have had the privilege of interviewingVietnamese-American United States Army Captain James Van Thach,a Law School graduate from Touro Law Center. He hadthe option to be admitted to a state bar and apply to join the Judge AdvocateGeneral Corp (JAG) as an Attorney in the U.S. Army but chose to become anInfantry officer and volunteered to serve in Iraqas a Military Advisor to the Iraqi Army. His actions led to him being woundedtwice during his first year, but he decided to remain in Iraqfor an additional year, on modified duty.

He was reassigned to Iraq Assistance Group (IAG) J-4 and wasappointed as the Officer in Charge (OIC) of Supply and Services. He worked onprojects that improved the capabilities of Military Advisors in order for themto assist in accelerating the transition of security to the Iraqi SecurityForces (ISF).

Captain James Van Thach’s work onnumerous projects that significantly improved the capabilities of the IraqiSecurity Forces led him to be selected as the only foreign Officer in Iraq tobe awarded the Honorary Iraqi Army rank of Staff Brigadier General on April 15,2008, by Staff Brigadier General Special Forces NassirAhmad Ghanim Al-Ogali, the BrigadeCommander of 3rd Brigade 6th Division Iraqi Army.

”Captain James Van Thach wasdesignated a tremendous task: to spearhead a project of building aforward-operations base in Iraqjust a few kilometers from the border with Iran.”It was aimed at improving border security and is part of a broader U.S.effort to stop alleged Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents. The base would behome to U.S.soldiers and Coalition soldiers and provide direct logistical support tosoldiers who patrol the border including the equipment needed for a militaryradio-communications network and surveillance equipment at the outpost.Eventually this will allow border guards to intercept the communications ofweapons smugglers.

On November 25, 2007, Captain James Van Thachwas awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal (JSAM) by Brigadier GeneralJames C. Yarbrough for his work in establishing the preparation and completionof a United States military base named Combat Outpost Shocker in eastern Iraqon the border facing Iran to assist US Military Advisors working with theirIraqi counterparts to advise them in maintaining, protecting their bordercheckpoint and combating against infiltration from smuggling and terroristactivities from Iran.

His Joint Service Achievement Medal citation reads:

Captain James Van Thach, UnitedStates Army, distinguished himself by meritorious achievement as the J4Contracting Officer, Iraq Assistance Group, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq, from 8 August to 15 November 2007 during OperationIraqi Freedom . Industrious, energetic, andmeticulous, Captain Thach is an exceptional organizerand leader. In support of the Commanding General, Multi-National Corps Iraq(MNCI) intent of forward basing Department of Borders Enforcement (DBE)Transition Teams, Captain Thach spear-headedthe construction of a new Life Support Area (LSA) in support of the Point ofEntry (POE) at the Zurbatiyah border crossing. Heassembled an impressive 33 page, $6.8 million Joint Facilities UtilizationBoard package and successfully pushed the project through all the hurdles, fromthe development of a detailed Statement of Work, legal reviews, Request forQuotations, site visits, funding, and final contracting. After the contract wasawarded, he monitored the construction progress and made contract modificationsand requested additional funding of $1.1 million for expansion of the LSA andadditional security requirements. After completion of the contacting cycle, heimmediately initiated a Joint Acquisition Review Board (JARB) package toprovide Operations & Maintenance services for the newly commissioned LSA,which included all the basic life requirements to enhanced moral requirements.Again, Captain Thach worked the JARB package throughall hurdles to gain final approval. His efforts resulted in the successfulopening of a new LSA which will enable the DBE Transition Teams to work andadvise closely with their Iraqi counterparts and thereby ensuring the 3rdRegion DBE will reach TRA 2 more expeditiously. Captain Thach’soutstanding efforts single-handedly increased the Transition Team’s ability toassist the DBE at the POE and along the border overall and greatly enhancedtheir ability to interdict accelerants moving throughout this area. Through hisaccomplishments, Captain James Van Thach reflectedcredit upon himself, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, the United States Army, andthe Department of Defense.

General David Petraeus & Captain James Van ThachGeneral David Petraeus &Captain James Van Thach

Courtesy: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/05/prweb3923274.htm

Tommy “Nero” Sullivan
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Ventures International Promotions
VIP Promotions/NYC
718-894-3119 (Office

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ECHO OF SACRIFICES

( In memory of our brave Firefighters

of the Eleventh of September, 2001)

 Y- Y E N

They faced dangers

Simply like skiing.

Fires blazed and smoke blurred

That mourning morning.

They rushed into the malls

Racing toward the moans,

Striving hard to reach

Where there arose SOS calls.

Firefighters! Firefighters! Forward!

No time be lost

The command came from your hearts:

Advance ! at any cost.

Where are your lovers?

Your dear families?

“They are caught in the centers;

Americans all are our lovers.”

No true  love without sacrifices;

Nothing equals voluntary deaths.

Firefighters forgot their own lives

Leaving their fates inside.

There are devils;

But also there are angels

Venturing into the ground zero

Never thought of themselves:  Heroes.

God, open your arms

To receive your sons, our firemen.

Americans, have room in your hearts,

And light a candle.  Amen.

For My Parents’ Generation

By Sidney Tran

Tom Brokaw wrote a book a few years ago called, “the Greatest Generation”.  Essentially, it was a moving tribute to the WW II generation that rebuilt a shattered world from the ashes of a conflagration that killed millions and by doing so, ensured the survival of liberty for generations of Americans to come.  In some ways the generation of my parents that left Vietnam is similar to America’s “greatest generation”.  Although, my parents’ generation fought a war too and the outcome of that war was not positive for them, in my eyes, they are still worthy of my respect.  Without their will to survive, to live in freedom, to endure hardships, and to make sacrifices my generation of Vietnamese Americans would not have flourished in freedom.  To this I owe them my gratitude, devotion, and love.  Because of their suffering I have tried to live my life, day in and day out, to the fullest and to be the person who is worthy of their memory.  As my generation of Vietnamese Americans goes on about our daily lives in our new homeland, we sometime forget the tremendous sacrifices that our parents’ had endured for the sake of our survival.  This is something we must acknowledge and this is something we must never forget.

            The sacrifice of our parents has ensured the survival of Vietnam’s humane legacy.  It is a memory of a different Vietnam steeped with the tradition of human decency, compassion, and selflessness.  These values are the antithesis of what Hanoi’s Communism stands for.  These values are alive among the Vietnamese that have fled from their ancestral homeland to distant shores.  Countless times in my life I have seen my parents’ generation help out the neediest in our community.  They did it not because of personal aggrandizement or selfish reasons.  They did it because they have been there before.  They have bore the tragedy of war on their shoulders.  It is a bond that all overseas Vietnamese share because given a choice between tyranny and liberty, most will have chosen the latter.  It is the most meaningful lesson my generation of Vietnamese Americans is most aware of.  We are the children of freedom.  It is part of our collective consciousness: the idea that man is born free and it is an unnatural state for him to be enslaved by others.  It is not a coincident that the wealthiest, most advanced, most civilized countries in the history of the world are always free in every aspects of society be it political, economic, religious, or cultural. 

            It is a lesson that the old men in Hanoi should be aware of too if they were rational beings capable of thinking critically.  But somehow in politics rational thinking is a casualty to subjective viewpoints.  It is deeply lamentable that my parents’ generation had to lose everything and to suffer the humiliation of a lost nation stoically.  Hopefully, one day the recovered soul of a free Vietnam will be their solace for what was lost.  To this, I am optimistic.  Vietnam is not isolated from the world.  The winds of change will touch the shores of our ancestral homeland as it has touched so many countries before.  The very fact that there are Vietnamese in the world who live and believe in freedom will chart a pathway for a Vietnamese Renaissance.  When this happens it will be the product of my parents’ generation.  They made a conscientious choice to be a free people rather than be enslaved by a strange and depraved doctrine.  They are the ones who fought the war, endured the upheaval, and survived the trauma of exile.  It is through them that the meaning of freedom and human dignity has been imbued into our living ethos.      

            The men and women of that era are now entering the twilight of their lives.  It is my wish that my generation take the time to acknowledge their selfless courage in order to secure our future and preserve our cultural heritage.  What they did meant something.  It meant something to all of us.  It meant something to me, personally.  For too long my parents’ generation had to endure the slight and slander from people who never knew any better and from critics whose depth of knowledge never went beyond the superficial.  Although there were no monuments, movies, memorials or documentaries that recorded their service in defense of our way of life, I still believe what they did was honorable and will always be steadfast in that belief.  It is the responsibility of any free people to speak out on behalf of the forgotten, the victims of injustice, and the weak.  That is the price for the survival of freedom.  It is about the time the world should know about our own “greatest generation”.