The Journey Home

I am proud of how I came to be living and raising my family here in Minnesota. I sometimes wonder what life would be like if my parents did not risk their lives to be in the United States. What would I be doing as an adult in Vietnam? I know I wouldn’t have the life I have today, be married to my wonderful husband or have three beautiful children.

If it weren’t for the welcoming arms of the United States to refugees, my parents would have never met in Virginia through their sponsor families, and my dad would not have met my Godfather who helped him get his job as a photographer for a major news station here in Minnesota.

My mom was lucky, her older brother had been able to come to the United States earlier and she avoided the panic and fear of leaving at the end of the Vietnam War when it was obvious the Viet Cong was going to win the South and the U.S. troops were moving out.

The communist regime knew who had spoken out against their cause and who was helping the American troops. Fear of being arrested, and who knows what punishment, were felt by many Vietnamese who did not agree with the war and the way the government was going.

My grandma worked for an American official and my dad was a city representative where my grandmother and he lived in North Vietnam. My dad is not shy and is very vocal about his opinions, whether you agree with him or not.

The Journey Home | Twin Cities Moms Blog

{My grandma receiving an award for her hard work as an employee}

My grandma and dad had to find a way to get out of the country at the end of the war. If you have heard stories from family members and others that were a part of this time in Vietnam, you know that many risked their lives and spent their life savings to escape on boats, taking on the risk of dying at sea, of being captured or being hurt by those they paid. Still, many took this route as it was their only option to try and get to safety.

My dad and grandma ended up on a boat. He won’t tell us too much detail. This, of course, was a hard period of time for him and my grandma. They are just happy and lucky to make it out to safety and be alive.

I remember my dad telling me how relieved he was when they finally reached waters where they knew allied ships would be there to rescue them. How when they were rescued, he received a standard ham and cheese sandwich and it tasted like the best thing he’d had in ages. They had made it to a refugee camp safe and sound. For many, they didn’t know how long it would be before they were rescued, if they were lucky. It could be hours, days, or months, and then not knowing if it would be a friend or foe.

While at the refugee camp, my dad and grandma were able to secure sponsors in Richmond, Virginia and traveled to the States. My dad had no more than $10 in his pocket and they were leaving the only home he had known.

The community that sponsored them happened to be the same group that my mom and her family were sponsored through. I always say it was meant to be, even the hard parts that my parents endured, for them to meet here in the United States. My dad says he “courted” my mom for months and then asked her to marry him and move to Minnesota with him when he got his job. They moved here to Minnesota in 1982, got married, and a short time later, I arrived! My parents built a life here in Minnesota with the mindset that their children would be educated and build their own, successful lives here in the United States.

The Journey Home | Twin Cities Moms Blog{My parents’ wedding photo at Como Zoo}

My parents worked hard to become citizens and make sure we had the freedom to learn, live, and be who we wanted to be. That was what America was to them, being free. Something they knew would not have happened in Vietnam during that time after the war.  

The Journey Home | Twin Cities Moms Blog{My dad celebrating his citizenship with friends}

They never wanted to leave their home country, but they couldn’t live in a country they could not stand behind and be persecuted for their beliefs. To them, America was the land of the free and gave them hope that they could be who they wanted to be without being ashamed of it.

If it wasn’t for the kind hearts and open arms of those who chose to sponsor refugees, I am not sure what would have happened and where any of our lives would be today. 

I appreciate everything that was done for my parents and their families  because that has helped shaped how they raised me. I see the sacrifices they made, the risks they took to ensure I have the ability to be who I want to be and they gave me the best chance to survive and succeed.

Mom and Dad, thank you. I will not take for granted what you have done for me, and I will always keep my heart and arms open to those in need here and everywhere because that is the best example I can be for my children. Embrace those who need you. These are the ideals that this country should not forget about. 

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