A Vietnam Vet reflects on the abandonment of Vietnam and America’s children

A Vietnam Veteran’s thoughts on meeting Amerasians with Thuy
Vietnam trip with Thuy 2010
Daughters and Sons of servicemen, what country abandons its own children?
Meeting Amerasians, men and women, and family members today was a deeply moving experience. It somehow connected one deeply to that other reality of 40 years ago. I could see in the faces of the men, the young men, the young soldier. It was a haunting experience to see their faces, as if the past was somehow once again real.

I also became aware of basic thought patterns which I held about the fathers of these Amerasians. One thought pattern which I became aware of as being false is that the men abandoned the women here in Vietnam and abandoned their offspring.

Today I saw the faces of young men who maybe died here a few weeks or days after their liaison or who were medevac to the U.S with body parts missing, or mentally or psychologically crippled. No judgement and no understanding of our individual situations is possible. Who can find fault with a young man knowing he may never see his next birthday to take comfort & escape with a willing tender partner?

If government policy is a reflection of the morals and values of the society as a whole, then surely that society which deliberately turns it’s back on these people, the sons and daughters of its own service men, then that society surely is heartless and cruel.

That same society sent its young men into the situation which must assuredly produce the results that we encountered today. It is therefore the society’s responsibility which created this eventually to acknowledge and support these sons and daughters just as it does any son or daughter born to a serviceman within the borders of the U.S.A. What country, what society abandons its own children?

*TSIO does acknowledge that although there were many Veterans who were not aware of having a child, the fact is that some children and their mothers were also abandoned. This was only one Veteran’s reflections.

Related Posts:  Vietnam Veterans meeting Amerasians in Vietnam for first time

“Searching for the right words to articulate the cries from your heart

Copyright-Mai Neng Vang

“Searching for the right words to articulate the cries from your heart”- Mai Neng Vang

Most people call it “writer’s block”; I call it “searching for the right words to articulate the cries from your heart”. After two months of contemplating my words, I am finally able to tell a story that I have been keeping silent for far too long. This story is not a complete one and is only the beginning of the many stories that need to be told. But we have to start somewhere so I will start with the place I come from.

I am a Hmoob American woman. I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand called Chiang Kham where each day was lived with an uncertainty of more tomorrows, where food was scarce and diseases were abundant, where the tears of my people could drown the camp.  I came to the United States a month shy of turning four, leaving behind the place where my parents grew up, leaving the poverty that was part of daily life, leaving those we loved, never knowing if we would see them again. We didn’t come with much; the most valuable things we carried were dreams of a better life and hopes to find a place we could call home.

All Rights Reserved- Mai Neng Vang

My parents told me that education was the key to a better future so I was very set on making education my priority. And while I was working on my English at school, my parents were working on making a life in America.

Both my parents are very intelligent people; the words of wisdom from their hearts taught me more about life than anything I’ve ever learned in a class.  However, when they first came to the U.S., neither of them could read nor write the language so they had to use their physical strength to make a living because here in America, you can’t get very far when you cannot communicate your intellectual strengths.

My parents tried the best way they knew how to give my siblings and I a life that they never had, having grown up in the terror of a war that was not supposed to be theirs to fight. The battle they fight today is one for the future they dreamt of for their children.

All Rights Reserved- Mai Neng Vang

This country has been my home for the last 18 years. I have been so blessed to experience the opportunities I have had; I am so grateful for the chance to fulfill my goals. However, the closer I get to my goals, the more I realized how much injustice there is in this country.

Even after the Japanese internment camps era and the Civil Rights Movement, policies still exist that oppress people of color, the media still portrays people of color as un-American, and segregation continues in a different form. Even after living the majority of my life thus far in this country, people still question whether or not I am American. I feel that there are certain expectations of a person in order for others to consider them an American.

So what does it mean to be an “American”? Everywhere I turn, people say, “America is about diversity, to be different is to be American.” But how is this true when people frown on those who do not know the “American way”. In my eyes, my parents are strong and brave and intelligent, but as soon as they step outside of the Hmong community, into the “American” world, their voices are weakened and they become children again in the eyes of those who are only listening to their accents; they are looked down upon—sometimes by people younger than them. I’ve seen this happen. Unfortunately, I know it still does.

In 1943, President Roosevelt said, “Americanism is a matter of the mind and the heart.” I would like to question the validity of such a statement. If it is true, then why do I have to prove my Americanism with a sheet of paper that grants me the right as a citizen of the United States of America? Why did my mother and father, grandmother and grandfather spend endless days, weeks, months, years studying for a test that was so difficult to pass? If it is a matter of the mind, then why is the accent that I carry more important than what I have to say? If it is a matter of the heart, then why is it not enough to be patriotic and loyal to the government of this United States of America? If it is about what I think and feel then why is my Americanism questioned because of the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes? Why do I still get asked “Where are you from?” with the expectation to answer with a foreign country? Why am I still being judged by the Hmong blood that runs through my soul?

Today, fear and uncertainty is what is silencing people like my parents from speaking up about injustices that they have experienced. They are afraid of confronting a system that will not listen to them, afraid of talking to people who will not understand them, afraid that their Hmong voices cannot be heard in this sea of English. As a society, we need to listen to the silence more often because sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. Listen to the people whose voices are often lost among louder voices; listen to those voices that have never spoken because of fear; listen to the silence of those who are being oppressed by the systems and institutions. We need to do more than hear these voices; we need to listen with our hearts ready and our minds open. Healing can only start once we take time to listen to the stories of pain and suffering.

And so I write my story so that others can be inspired to share theirs. I write down words that cannot begin to express the pain behind them, but still I write. I write in hopes of opening the eyes of everyone around me. The story does not end here, so I will continue to write.

*We allow our guest bloggers to share from their experiences / perspectives, one of many. Take what resonates with you, put aside what does not. We are merely a platform for various views, perspectives, and voices.

Former Vietnamese Refugee- surviving long uncertain travel, pirates, and refugee camps to new life of hope

Vietnamese woman, former boat person, one of many, tells about her family’s journey to the United States. Phuong and her family have volunteered for my organization to help remember and honor Vietnam Era veterans and to assist me with my work with Amerasians.

When reflecting with Phuong, some of the views, customs, and experiences we refer to are of our parents and their generation. I grew up with some of the culture because of my mother, but we were the only Vietnamese, let alone Asians in our area and of course I had my American father I grew up with. I later in my adult years took up the custom of having a family shrine for my grandparents as a personal act of respect. Many Vietnamese do practice some of these customs mentioned in the clip, but there are a lot of changes in the family system today. I personally like some of the old along with the new.

Watch my cooking show segment with Phoung on how to make Vietnamese Spring rolls and Rice Porridge (click here)

I am not who you may think I am

Africa_satellite_orthographic Find out more about who they actually are and the one thing they are definitely not. Learn more from video below. Maybe you already know, maybe just need a simple reminder. Maybe it will be the first time you have considered it.

I am reminded of how the secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, there were young boys also recruited to take up arms. Actual children. The U.S. didn’t seem to have a problem with that although most images on TV, the movies, and the media are about Africa. In all fairness, it was a secret war (Laos) and we “weren’t supposed to over there” so most people were not aware at that time. This is just an example of not only hypocrisy, but the danger of a stereotype. You can learn more about the Secret War here.