by Nick Tran
As we celebrate the New Year, I felt that it would be an appropriate time to share the story of my own journey here to the United States and how the actions of a certain generation of Veterans influenced my path to become an American Soldier.
Even though I was only five years old at the time, I remember the deep drum-like thumping sounds and the flashes of light in the horizon. This was the night before Saigon fell to the Communist and the thumping sounds were explosions of a ferocious battle on the outskirts of the city. I was more curious than anything because I didn’t really understand what was going on as I stood there next to my nanny in the closet underneath the stairs.
My father (who was a colonel) was at the Presidential Palace at that time helping to develop a counterattack using soldiers from one of the last remaining paratrooper regiments to repel the advancing Communist forces in order to help buy more time for people to escape the city, and certain death.
The counterattack worked and bought the people several precious hours that allowed countless of thousands to escape. By the time my father got back to our house to get me and execute our own escape, the airport had already been captured. Unfortunately my parents had separated a couple of years before this had happened and my mother was living in the side of the city that had been overrun by the Communists. We had no other choice but to leave without her and I never saw my mother again.
Our only option left to leave the country was by boat so we headed to the shore. Once we arrived at the dock, we managed to secure one of the few small boats that still remained and set sail out to sea. The boat was just a little bigger than the infamous boat that was portrayed on the show Gilligan’s Island, but instead of the seven actors that were featured on that sitcom, over 200 people climbed on board.
Two fatalities happened within the first few minutes just as we departed the dock and away from the country that we knew. A man who realized that his family could not get out of the city before it was overrun pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head. In the chaos, a young woman with a baby in her arms accidentally slipped off the boat and drowned despite the efforts of countless people who tried to save her. Thankfully, I don’t remember seeing any of this because my father pulled my face into his chest, shielding me from the horror of war when all of this happened.
I won’t get into much more detail about the rest of our ordeal, but after three days into our voyage, we had exhausted our food, water, fuel and were stranded out at sea waiting to die. All hoped seemed to fade, but miraculously we were rescued by an American destroyer from the 7th Fleet that had previously departed Vietnam. They took us to the refugee camp in Guam where we applied for political asylum to enter the United States. A few weeks later, our application was accepted and with just the clothes on our backs, we headed to America as immigrants to start our lives over.
My family and I owe our lives and freedom to those veterans who served in Vietnam. There is a very special place in my heart for that generation of veterans who left their families and homes to travel across the world to fight in a war that was deemed unpopular by many back home. They did not receive the well-deserved praises and gratitude that today’s generation of veterans enjoy as they returned from the battlefield.
So as a new year begins, I wanted to share my personal history with you because I felt that to truly honor our veterans, our Vietnam Veterans, I had to tell their story of courage and sacrifice.
I am living proof and the direct result of the bravery and sacrifice of our Vietnam Veterans. Their actions not only saved millions of lives, but allowed generations, upon generations of people to experience the freedoms that so many take for granted.
To all veterans past, present and in the generations to come, thank you deeply for your service. The smallest ripples that you make today with your sacrifice and bravery will echo in eternity within the hearts and souls of countless people whose lives you helped to made better.
The impact that you made in their lives may not be realized immediately, and it could take many years for it to manifest, but while so many others stood idly by, you stood up, stepped out and your deeds became the catalyst in which things were set into motion for the betterment of all humanity.
My contributions to our great country in the name of freedom would not have been possible if it had not been for the Vietnam Veterans who fought for mine…
This first appeared in Nick Tran’s personal blog [not accessible December 31, 2021] and first appeared in The Havok Journal on January 4, 2015.