House in Georgia, heart in Vietnam

House in Georgia, heart in Vietnam
By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
April 28, 2010 10:52 a.m. EDT
Decatur, Georgia (CNN) —

The Vietnam War ended with the fall of
Saigon 35 years ago this week, but Hong Nguyen will never surrender.

Nguyen’s story is just one among millions from Vietnam’s tragic war
era, but it’s also one that ultimately resolves in triumph.

Nguyen was a Republic of Vietnam army major stationed in Da Nang when
the port city was bombarded by the enemy North Vietnamese army in late
March 1975. Commanders in Saigon, 380 miles to the south, offered no
guidance or information, he said.

“It was total chaos,” Nguyen, now 74 and living in Decatur, Georgia,
said through an interpreter. “The only thing anyone knew was that
something was wrong. Nobody knew the details, so everyone was on the

Nguyen gathered up his wife, Que Pham, their seven children and the
family dog and headed for Da Nang’s Tien Sa port, hoping to escape on
a boat. Thousands of others in the city of half a million had the same

Hong Nguyen, 74, survived 11 years in Vietnamese re-education camps
and moved to the U.S. in 1993.Nine hours later, Nguyen and his family,
along with a few hundred others, were able to board a 500-foot-long
barge. (The dog was left behind.) They managed to push off and row out
into the South China Sea, but it was no sanctuary. Thugs terrorized
the other passengers, taking their cash, jewelry and even clothes.

“They got on with a purpose,” said Nguyen, who lost his sidearm and
uniform to the ruffians.

The refugees drifted for two days and two nights without food or
drinkable water. The thugs killed several people, and others died of
dehydration in what Nguyen’s family calls “the atrocity.”

At last they were rescued by a proper ship, which carried them 295
miles down the coast to Cam Ranh Bay. The next day, they caught
another boat to Vung Tau, where Nguyen ran barefoot across scorching
sand to find rags in which to wrap his children’s feet so they could
make the crossing.

The next day, the family rode the remaining 40 miles overland to
Saigon, where Nguyen reported for duty at the national security
section office.

Despite the chaos up north, it was business as usual for the military
and government for most of April 1975, Nguyen said, even though the
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army were rapidly advancing southward.

“There was still hope, because the western part of Vietnam was still
stable, and we believed we could establish ourselves there to resist
and defeat the communists,” Nguyen said.

Vietnamese in America
The end of the Vietnam War in April 1975 brought a wave of immigrants
to the United States.
The U.S. Census Bureau didn’t even count people of Vietnamese origin
in the 1970 Census, but in 1980 it counted nearly 262,000. The
Vietnamese population has roughly doubled every 10 years since.
The Census Bureau counted nearly 1.3 million people of Vietnamese
origin in 2004. It was not to be. With the withdrawal of American
troops two years earlier, South Vietnamese forces could not hold off
the communist advance. Saigon fell April 30. The war was over.

Nguyen, suddenly out of work with a wife and seven children to feed,
operated a bicycle taxi for about six weeks. Then an order came for
all officers of the defeated army to report to meetings.

In June 1975, Nguyen and hundreds of thousands of his fellow officers,
intellectuals, religious leaders and others associated with the losing
side were arrested and sent off to communist “re-education camps” for
however long their keepers decided.

Re-educational camp-image:Vietnamese History,LA Library

Nguyen spent the next 11 years being thrust into a series of filthy
camps, subjected to desperate living conditions, intense
indoctrination and hard labor in the jungle heat and mountain cold.
It’s not known how many inmates died from disease or were worked or
starved to death in the camps.

Nguyen’s wife, Que Pham, was left to fend for herself.

“My wife and children barely made a living by selling vegetables at
the flea markets and collecting plastic bags to recycle,” he said.

The government tried to entice detainees’ families to move to remote
settlements in the countryside, but Pham held out.

“These women were hopeless,” Nguyen said. “They had to support
themselves, raise their children, while being taken advantage of and
were left without anything. They were deceived with promises that if
they would go to these ‘new economized places,’ their husbands would
be released early. … It was an empty promise.”

Outside his Georgia home today, Nguyen shows visitors a statue he
fashioned to honor these women’s courage and sacrifice. A small figure
of a woman holds a child next to a live miniature tree.

I wanted to express my feelings for my country. I want to be
recognized as Vietnamese.

–Hong Nguyen
“The communists knew the wives were dedicated to their husbands, but
they wanted the wives to go where they could not survive,” Nguyen
said. They wanted to wipe out a generation and all memory of freedom,
he said.

Nguyen finally was released, and the family reunited in 1986, settling
in Saigon, by now renamed Ho Chi Minh City, where he worked as a

Vietnam’s government has liberalized its social restrictions and
economy since the mid-1980s, according to the CIA World Factbook, and
foreign investment has pumped cash into the country.

Nguyen still despises the communists.

“They use propaganda to improve their image with the American people.
They have no noble intention at all,” he said of Vietnam’s political
leaders. “In Vietnam today, the people are oppressed so much.”

The communists “still have control by taking advantage of capitalists
who supply the money that keeps them in power,” he said.

In 1993, Nguyen and his dependents were allowed to emigrate to the
United States under a program for former prisoners of the regime.

iReport: Share the story of your Vietnam journey

Nguyen, Pham and four of their children flew to Los Angeles,
California. (The three oldest children were not eligible to emigrate
because they no longer were Nguyen’s dependents; two since have
emigrated, and the last is in the process.)

The West Coast was swamped with immigrants, and work was scarce. When
the news came that Atlanta, Georgia, would host the 1996 Summer
Olympic Games, Nguyen knew that meant jobs. The family moved to
Georgia, and the parents soon landed jobs in housekeeping at a
downtown hotel.

Hong Nguyen told his story to CNN through two interpreters: Hanh-Hoa
Nguyen (no relation), the mother of CNN Special Projects Executive
Producer Kim Bui Barnett; and My-Hanh Nguyen, Hong Nguyen’s 19-year-
old granddaughter, a Georgia State University student who immigrated
from Vietnam four years ago.
Vietnam War
Refugees and Displaced People
“Due to the language barrier, it was very hard,” Nguyen said.
“Completely different culture and way of life. But we are very proud
to say that after only eight months of government help, we were able
to secure jobs and gradually learned to adapt to the new life.”

Pham continued at the hotel for years, gaining the love and respect of
her co-workers. She was even elected “queen” in an in-house contest.
Her husband proudly shows off a photo of her, resplendent in her
traditional Vietnamese gown.

Nguyen moved on to better-paying jobs, first at a furniture factory
and then at an auto parts maker in Atlanta. He retired in 2006.

“Our lives have become quite stable,” he said.

On the front of the family’s immaculate brick ranch home near Atlanta,
Nguyen has cultivated vines into a large map of Vietnam. A Vietnamese
flag flies above it.

In the center of the front lawn, Nguyen built a concrete box
containing a water reservoir, from which elegant lotus flowers rise
every summer.

“The lotus pond is the symbol of Buddhism, the religion that our
family relies on to guide our belief and conduct,” Nguyen says.

The street-facing side of the box shows the silhouettes of two adults,
seven children and a dog looking out to sea in Da Nang. A blood-red
communist hammer-and-sickle smashes half a sunburst symbol of freedom,
while in the opposite corner the letter F for “freedom” holds up the
other half of the sunburst, which resembles the tiara of the Statue of

The side facing the house shows the Olympic rings and several
athletes. Vietnamese words deliver the message, “Stay fit to serve
your country.” It is painted in the yellow and red of the Vietnamese

“I wanted to express my feelings for my country. I want to be
recognized as Vietnamese,” said Nguyen, a naturalized U.S. citizen. “I
wanted to do something that will remind us of where we came from, how
we Vietnamese had to make the decision to be away from our country
despite our inexpressible feelings toward it.

“This means we have never and will never forget Vietnam and Vietnamese
people, though unfortunately and reluctantly we are apart from them.
We always look out for our country and our people.”

Nguồn: CNN
Ảnh minh họa: BL


23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by qx on May 3, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Nhớ nước đau lòng con cút cút
    Thương nhà mỏi miệng cái da da


    • Chà mấy hôm nay khách ..quí đi đâu mới ghé-bên VN đang “lộn xộn” cái dzụ bài”Speech…”của BL.Thân mẫu BL không bằng lòng…nên BL dặn Zhi và các bạn tạm dừng ghé chơi để an toàn cho các bạn.-BL cũng không “xạo xạo” trên chiếu bác Lập nữa.

      Hễ BL không”run” blog nữa, bàn giao cho qx nhé!


  2. Posted by qx on May 3, 2010 at 8:02 am

    hehe vậy làm vậy là không được rồi, nhưng chịu thôi, “lý lẽ trong tay kẻ mạnh” mà. Nếu mà BL bị vậy, dân cày tui đây chắc đã nằm trong list rồi hén. hehe kinh.


  3. “Đánh một trận sạch không kình ngạc/Đánh hai trận tan nát chim muôn/ Đánh ba trận Tào Tháo cũng hàng”.

    Hehehe, thêm vào Bài Cáo Bình Ngô của cụ Ức Trai để nói về cuộc chiến phản biện chú em đã ưng lòng chưa? Hay là còn muốn đánh đến trận thứ 4 và thứ năm ở nước quài? Hử?

    Good night,


    • Đây không phải là “đánh trả” mà đòi hỏi sự công minh, lẽ phải,công bằng…
      BL hạng “con cháu”, “kính lão đắc thọ”, nhưng thiết nghĩ đã đến lúc GS T. trở về đúng vai trò và tôn trọng dư luận Y khoa của VN.
      Em họ BL cũng là MD chính qui của Mỹ, honor Richmond Medical School, Virginia -đàng hoàng,nhưng nó luôn respect với các anh chị MD VN mình qua mà vì “lỡ thời lỡ vận” không lấy license lại được.


      • Tớ chỉ xót xa 3 điều:
        1. NVT khinh thường trí thức chân chính trong nước, nhưng ông ta đâu biết rằng tụi tớ cũng đã từng ăn mòn răng fastfoot ở xứ người, không muốn ở lại vì dị biệt văn hóa, lối sống và buồn. Trong khi đó ở trong nước bọn tớ kiếm tiền cũng không nhỏ để có cuộc sống an bình và hạnh phúc theo kiểu văn hóa Việt muốn nhậu hú nhau đi nhậu, muốn đi xem cinema thì đi mà không bó hẹp thời gian và thiếu cảnh đoàn tụ gia đình như ở xứ người.

        2. Vì cộng đồng phải nói để cộng đồng không bị lừa.

        3. Để NVT đừng lập lờ đánh lận con đen vì cái tính háo danh và hám bằng cấp của ông ta rồi đi vun vít là này là nọ với dân tình trong nước. Thực ra chỉ là 1 cái vỏ rỗng tuếch. Tớ có đủ bằng cấp photocopy của anh ta gửi xin việc làm ở 2 đại học lớn tại TPHCM và người ta từ chối vì với khả năng của anh ta ở đó xách thúng đựng không hết, nhưng tớ không muốn trương ra thui. Hehehe.

        Good night em trai,


        • BL đã từng mài đũng quần 06 năm ĐH trong nước,và mài lại …một cách academic nơi xứ người-không thể không công nhận là giáo dục VN yếu kém, khoa học không phát triển,nhất là Y học cơ sở, thiếu tính chuyên nghiệp… nhưng đó không phải do lỗi sinh viên VN ,và bać sỹ Y khoa VN hơn bọn Mẽo cái chỗ …” nhạy cảm trong chẩn đoán lâm sàng”-chuyện này bữa nào kể anh nghe chơi.
          Này, BL nhắc anh cái này nhé:
          BS Hồ Hải phạm luật:
          1. Quyền dân chủ,tự do ngôn luận:GS T.muốn viết lách hay phát biểu gì là quyền của giáo sư.Trách nhiệm đăng tải, kiểm duyệt là báo chí VN,Hiệp hội Y khoa chuyên ngành ở VN,…

          2.Reveal personal information: Tiết lộ bí mật cá nhân-coi chừng bị GS T. kiện à nha!-Chuyện này tự anh nói,chứ BL không có hỏi gì hết về GS T.

          BL không biết cái Austraian educational system trong Health Care Field chứ ở Mỹ hay VN mình cũng vậy, muốn lấy Professional Certificate cũng phải có graduate degree-Tức là muốn học Osteoprosis Certificate cũng phải có Medicine Doctor Degree

          -bên BL muốn xin học Pain Control Certificate phải nộp Oral Surgeon doctor degree và transcrript mới cho học.-Bạn BL muốn xin học Vascular Surgeon Certficiate cũng phải là Surgeon Specialist Doctor.

          -Anh nói đúng,sống ở nước ngoài …nhai fastfood ,không gặp ai bù khú cũng chán lắm. Nhiều người họ không thích nên qua một thời gian rồi lại về.


    • Posted by qx on May 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm

      Ouch! Thưa ngài BÁC SĨ, là “đánh hai trận tan tác chim muôn” chớ


      • BS Hồ Hải hay ” bẻ chữ” đó mà qx, giống như “đau lòng con quốc quốc…” thành “..cút cút” ,”…cái gia gia ” thành “…da da” đó mà.
        -Đừng giỡn nha, BL đã từng được giải văn Toàn quốc và nhiều giải cấp tỉnh hồi học phổ thông ở VN -tiếng Việt là BL không sợ “…thằng Việt “nào hết!


  4. Posted by qx on May 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    hehehe BL … hôm lào dạy qua tiếng Việt hỉ?


  5. You can edit audio files with audacity.


  6. Hello, this is a really fascinating web blog and ive loved reading several of the articles and posts contained upon the site, sustain the great work and hope to read a lot more exciting articles in the time to come.


    • Thank for your visitting. I am so busy these days , so I can not post any new entry.Maybe a few next months, I will re-post some articles again and hope you drop by.
      Sincerely yours,


  7. Every time I see blogs as good as this because I should stop bludging and start working on mine.Thanks


  8. And I think that it’s all true and very precisely noticed! And those little things you can dig a thousand.


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