ThirtyOne Years and Counting

by Hoi B. Tran

April30 is rapidly approaching. It will mark the 31st anniversary of themass exodus to freedom of Vietnamese. Across the United States, VietnameseAmericans will again commemorate this painful chapter in Vietnam history.

Inthe past thirty years we had assembled to remember and mourn the death ofhundreds of thousands compatriots who lost their lives in pursuit of freedom. Wewill gather this time to share the traumatic experiences our fellow men sufferedafter the fall of Saigon. Hundreds of thousands of our brother-in-arms spentmany atrocious years in communist re-education camps under the most barbarousand brutal treatments. The physical and mental wounds they bore will never heal.As for us fortunate to have escaped communist hell to freedom in America thirtyyears ago, the struggle to get back on our feet was not pain free. It washardship during the first phase of resettlement. We proved our ability to adjustand adapt to the new environment and become self sufficient earning the respectfrom the locals. The Vietnamese had been known to be stoic, conscientious,intelligent and resilient. Over the course of a few years they have becomesuccessful in professional and business fields, contributing a good deal to theadopted countries. After settling down and merging into the main stream theysuccessfully establish strong communities in America and the world over.

Astime went by and tears and pain subsided, we must reassess in cool head theaftermath of 30 April 1975. This must not be misconstrued as an attempt todiscount the catastrophic disaster of that unfortunate date. It should be viewedas an impartial re-evaluation of the negative and positive consequences of thetragic event. No one could deny the emergence of strong Vietnamese communitiesworldwide. It would not be possible to ignore the impressive professionalsuccesses by the Vietnamese in the competitive global arena. Those are positivereturns from an unfortunate happening. Throughout our four thousand yearshistory, Vietnam has never had such phenomenal exposure in all five continents.But the price tag was rather high.

Bynow, the majority of Vietnamese in America has reached retirement age and manyhad already retired. We lived for thirty consecutive years in a civilized andfree society. We enjoyed a peaceful life devoid of fear of retribution. We weregiven the opportunity to learn and develop our ability with chances foradvancement. Many of us have achieved corporate executive level in variousprofessional fields. Our children were toddlers or in their teens when they setfoot in American soil. They have grown and become productive American citizens.Following their elders’ footsteps, many surpassed their parents in variousmainstream professional and political fields. America is a great place ofinvestment for our progeny gray matters. Prior to April 1975, the majority ofVietnamese parents would do anything to send their children to higher educationin America. Had that sad date not happened how could Anh N Duong become a leadscientist at the US Naval Surface Warfare Center? How could Viet Dinh have thechance of appointment to Assistant US Attorney General due to his brilliantlegal ability? How could Jane X. Luu have the means to discover the Kuiper beltobject with David C Jewitt and receive the Annie Award in Astronomy? How couldElizabeth Pham and Lilly Tran become the first Vietnamese female jet pilots? TheAir Force Academy, the Naval Academy and West Point would not have had youngmale and female Vietnamese valedictorian graduates! The list goes on and on…

Duringthe same period the so called victors of the Vietnam War dragged the countrybackward miserably. After the invasion of Saigon, a horde of thugs forciblylooted wealth and seized properties. High ranking communists quickly becamebillionaires. After their trite propaganda died down, the incompetent officialsof the communist suddenly realized that they dragged the country through thedeep hole of a bankrupted economy. The general population suffered a miserablelife under poverty line.

Theterribly poor living condition in Vietnam struck the conscience of Vietnameseabroad. Exiled Vietnamese worldwide kept pumping cash home to help starving andsick family members. Besides, many Vietnamese medical groups from all over theworld went to Vietnam providing free health care to the needy in North andSouth. Vietnamese humanitarian groups worldwide raised funds to build schools,orphanages, handicapped and senior citizens centers and to help disaster victimsin country. We were not doing it without a certain feeling of guilt. The truthis we were assisting our enemy, the unforgivable dictators in the strengtheningof their narcissistic regime. Nevertheless, do we want to cut off financial aidto our family and other less privileged folks in country? The answer iscertainly a resounding no. We remembered that thirty years ago when we neededhelp, American philanthropists had opened their heart, homes and check books toprovide us the needed assistance.

Weare thankful for all the blessings from the decent good hearted people. Weshould overcome negative emotions and extend love and compassion to the needy inVietnam; and that is the difference between charitable human beings and thetwisted evil-minded communist perpetrators. At the end of the day, we cannotignore two positive outcomes of the tragic April 30, 1975. First, we haveestablished a strong financial base outside Vietnam that could be an enormousfinancial back up for the mother land in case of need. Had it existed sixtyyears ago, millions of lives could have been saved in the horrendous famine ofthe northern region of Vietnam in 1945. Secondly, Vietnamese of different ageand sex groups have been offered the opportunity to compete head on worldwideand they passed the test with flying colors. Those are truly our consolations.

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