Archive for Vietnamese Refugees

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/.

Canada Aiming to Pass April 30, 1975 Commemoration Legislation, Known as the “Journey to Freedom Day” Act

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2015 by Ian Pham

Harper in Toronto Tet 2015

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to a large crowd at the Tết 2015 Festival in Toronto in February. In his speech, the Prime Minister announces Canada’s intention to pass the “Journey to Freedom Day” Act. Photo via Vietnamese Association of Toronto

The Government of Canada is in the process of passing a new law commemorating the arrival of the Vietnamese “boat people” refugees to Canada after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Known as the “Journey to Freedom Day” Act, or Bill S-219, the legislation honors all of the Vietnamese people who escaped South Vietnam in the wake of the Communist takeover. If passed, April 30 will be known every year in Canada as “Journey to Freedom Day,” an official day of remembrance, recognizing the courage and sacrifice of the Vietnamese boat people and their incredible journey to freedom.

Originally put forth by Canadian Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, the law has already been passed by the Canadian Senate in December 2014, and has since been referred to the House of Commons for further consideration.

According to Senator Ngo’s website:

“I am extremely honoured to announce that Bill S-219, known as the Journey to Freedom Day Act, passed the Senate on December 8, 2014, and has now been referred to the House of Commons.”

“The bill regarding Journey to Freedom Day, alternatively known as Black April Day by the Vietnamese-Canadian community, establishes a day to commemorate the thousands of refugees who fled Vietnam in pursuit of freedom, and it pays tribute to Canada’s humanitarian tradition of welcoming thousands of refugees during and after the Vietnam War.”

“For the past 39 years, Vietnamese-Canadians have gathered on April 30 to remember a new beginning and to thank Canada. In 2015, the Vietnamese-Canadian community will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the boat people’s resettlement in Canada. I envision the Journey to Freedom Day Act as a way to mark this milestone year, to thank Canada for saving our lives and to commemorate the Vietnamese refugees’ new-found freedom.”

As expected, the Vietnamese government in Hanoi is not happy about this development. According to The Globe and Mail, Nguyen Tan Dung has written directly to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in protest of the new bill. In Dung’s letter, he claims that the legislation presents “a distorted version of Vietnam’s history,” and will likely “damage the bilateral relations both countries have worked so hard to build.” Moreover, a Vietnamese diplomat in Canada claims that the new bill “hurts” Vietnam, as April 30 is described by Hanoi as a day that marks the end of the war and “the beginning of reconciliation.” The Communist government has also accused Senator Ngo of “dredging up the past” in introducing Bill S-219, among the aforementioned and other similar complaints.

In response to Hanoi’s objections, members of the Canadian government have stated clearly that this is a private member’s bill, and does not signify Canadian foreign policy. Furthermore, Senator Ngo reaffirms the fact that the Journey to Freedom Day bill has nothing to do with Vietnam’s current regime, but rather with the Vietnamese refugees, and Canada’s warm welcome of these refugees after April 1975.

Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Minister of Multiculturalism, and Member of Parliament, explains that he supports Journey to Freedom Day because it celebrates the 60,000 Vietnamese who “risked their lives in search of freedom and found it in Canada.” Mr. Kenney also adds that, “Canada continues to have respectful relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Senator Thanh Hai Ngo sums up the purpose of the bill in a simple statement: “Freedom is not free, and the boat people paid for their freedom with their perilous journey.”

There are many reasons to support this bill, it delivers a positive message and commemorates that incredible and terrifying journey which made today possible for so many of us. It also celebrates the significant role that overseas Vietnamese have played in building up their new home countries after leaving Vietnam in 1975 and the years onward. This bill may be introduced in Canada, but the significance is not just in Canada alone. Across the western world, Vietnamese refugees have braved the ocean waves in their search for freedom.

As Vietnamese people who love freedom, democracy, and human rights, and this includes not just those of us in Canada, but also the U.S., Australia, Europe, and everywhere else, it is important that we support this bill and what it represents. This law marks an important epoch for people of Vietnamese origin living overseas, and can set an example for other nations if they so desire to pass similar legislation in the future.

To my readers in Canada, if you haven’t already, please take a moment to sign this petition and share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and anyone who may be interested. The petition is put forth by MP Jason Kenney, and lets Canadians show their support for “Journey to Freedom Day,” also known as Bill S-219.

It only takes a second to sign, and every signature counts.

>> Click here to sign the petition! <<

Let’s make this happen!

Sources:

Joan Bryden (The Canadian Press), Kim Mackreal (The Globe and Mail), Member of Parliament Jason Kenney, Prime Minister of Canada, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo (2), Vietnamese Association of Toronto

The Rescue of 1975, America’s Untold Accomplishment

Posted in Did You Know?, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Ian Pham

When South Vietnam fell to the Communist forces of North Vietnam on April 30, 1975, a wave of Vietnamese citizens fled the country in order to avoid persecution by the new regime.  The former South Vietnamese Navy, with the help of the Americans, would succeed in saving an estimated 30,000 Vietnamese refugees.  This accomplishment would go unrecognized for nearly thirty-five years.  The American soldiers didn’t regard the rescue as anything significant, viewing their rescue as just part of their duty.

The USS Kirk, an American military vessel, encountered the Vietnamese refugees on and around Con Son Island, immediately providing them with food, water, shelter, and medical assistance.  The USS Kirk then led the Vietnamese naval vessels, fishing boats, and cargo ships, filled with refugees, to safety, meeting up with other US Navy ships.  As a result of their efforts, approximately 30,000 Vietnamese refugees were taken to safety in the Philippines and out of the Communists’ reach.

It is only recently that this great humanitarian accomplishment became largely recognized.  Since America held a feeling of bitterness towards Vietnam after the tragic conclusion of the war, the public was not interested in the happenings in that general area.  Also, the soldiers themselves never considered what they did to be anything extraordinary, so the story was never widely publicized.  Today, rising interests in humanitarian work have prompted journalists and investigators to explore the American feat in Vietnam, so the story of this great rescue is finally known to the world.