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”.