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Viet X. Luong: The South Vietnamese Kid Who Grew Up to Be a U.S. Army General

Posted in I. News, Inspirational People, IV. Columns with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2017 by Ian Pham

Viet X. Luong Viet X. Luong gets promoted from Colonel to Brig. General of the U.S. Army in a ceremony on August 6, 2014 at Fort Hood, Texas. (Bryan Correira / NBC News)

Luong Xuan Viet, or Viet Xuan Luong in American vernacular, was only nine years old when he came to the United States as a South Vietnamese refugee (Bowman, 2015). Today, he holds the reigning achievement of being the first-ever Vietnamese-born person to reach the rank of Brig. General in the U.S. Army (Ghandi, 2014). Currently, he is stationed in South Korea, acting as the Deputy Commanding General of the Eighth Army of the United States (United States, 2017).

His story begins like so many of ours.

It was late April 1975, in the dying days of the Vietnam War. The Republic of Vietnam was on the verge of collapse, and like so many other South Vietnamese at the time, Viet’s family was frantically planning to evacuate the dying country.

During the last days of the war, Viet’s father, a marine in the South Vietnamese Army, called an emergency family meeting. There, it was decided that the Luong family would depart Vietnam before the communist takeover. Following a harrowing excursion to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which involved sightings of communist artillery fire, Viet and his family entered a Marine helicopter and flew out to the Pacific. Eventually, the Luong family would land on the USS Hancock aircraft carrier, where Viet recalls his father telling him, “… nothing in the world can harm you now,” (Bowman, 2015).

Standing on the wide deck of that American aircraft carrier, Viet found his life’s calling (Hood, 2014). “I knew right back then that I wanted to serve our country,” Viet said (Bowman, 2015).

After becoming settled in Southern California with his family, Viet would come of age and steadily follow in his father’s footsteps (Hood, 2014).

As an undergrad at the University of Southern California, Viet joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (Bowman, 2015). During his time in the ROTC (1983-1987), he was the only cadet from an ethnic background (Garsema, 2016). Upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Army, and so began his professional military career (Bowman, 2015).

Through patience, hard work, and determination, Viet rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army to become the first Vietnamese-born ever to reach the level of general officer.

This historical moment took place on August 6, 2014, at Fort Hood, Texas, where Colonel Viet X. Luong’s uniform was pinned with the star of an Army Brigadier General (Japanese American Veterans Association, 2014).

As Brigadier General, Luong led the American training effort in Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan, as Deputy Commander of the First Cavalry Division. This training prepared the Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban (Bowman, 2015).

In March 2016, General Luong become the Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Central (United States, 2016).

Earlier this year, in May of 2017, General Luong was assigned to South Korea as the Deputy Commanding General of Operations for the Eighth Army (United States, 2017).

Viet X. Luong’s story, his successful and still-growing military career, and his many personal victories and achievements are an inspiration for Vietnamese people everywhere, inside and outside of Vietnam. He is part of the South Vietnamese legacy, representing the struggle, hard work, and dedication of all Vietnamese people who love freedom, country, and family. His story is our story, and that story is the story of the freedom-loving Vietnamese people.

In the words of Luong himself, “As a Vietnamese American, and as an immigrant, I am a symbol of democracy, of freedom, of justice, of our constitution… I live every day trying to live up to the honor and prestige of one of the owners of that,” (Ghandi, 2014).

Viet X. LuongIn 2015, Brig. General Luong led the U.S. training of Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban. (David Gilkey / NPR)

General Viet X. Luong is a role model, not just for the Vietnamese community around the world, but for people everywhere.

Thank you for leading by example, General Luong, and thank you for your service.

 

Sources:

Bowman, Tom. “The Frightened Vietnamese Kid Who Became A U.S. Army General.” April 30, 2015. NPR. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/04/30/403082804/the-frightened-vietnamese-kid-who-became-a-u-s-army-general.

“Colonel Viet Xuan Luong Promoted to Flag Rank.” August 15, 2014. Japanese American Veterans Association. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://javadc.org/news/press-release/army-brigadier-general-viet-xuan-luong/.

Garsema, Emily. “USC Alum, An Army Brigadier General, Shares His Tale of Success With Cadets.” April 1, 2016. USC News. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://news.usc.edu/97768/usc-alum-an-army-brigadier-general-shares-his-tale-of-success-with-cadets/.

Ghandi, Lakshmi. “U.S. Military Promotes First Vietnamese-American General.” August 11, 2014. NBC News. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/u-s-military-promotes-first-vietnamese-american-general-n177936.

Hood, David. “Southern California Man is First Vietnamese-Born General in U.S. Military.” August 18, 2014. The Orange County Register. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://www.ocregister.com/2014/08/18/southern-california-man-is-first-vietnamese-born-general-in-us-military/.

United States. “General Officer Assignments, Release No: NR-088-16.” March 15, 2016. U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/694035/general-officer-assignments/.

United States. “General Officer Assignments, Release No: NR-156-17.” March 15, 2016. U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1168558/general-officer-assignments/.

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