The Secret War that took place during the Vietnam War

*Lecture taped and pieced together by TSIO with permission. Learn more about the Hmong’s role and history with the Vietnam War Era.

*Added Reflections- Many times the images on TV, Movies, or in the media you see are limited or with only one narrative, if even altogether accurate to begin with. Many times stereotypes develop out of these limited images about a place and people. (Related Video Clip-I am not who you think I am) Those same images usually point fingers to practices that have occurred in other countries regarding using children as soldiers. The U.S. did not turn away that practice either during the secret war in Laos. Many were very young boys. Some as young as nine or ten.

Vietnam Veterans meeting Amerasians in Vietnam for first time

Vietnam trip with two Vietnam Veterans- January 2010

Arriving at the restaurant to meet fellow Amerasians:

I was so overwhelmed. I looked at all of them and felt very honored to meet them, little did they know.

We started with introductions and I told them~ I am here because I never want to forget where I came from and I am a proud Amerasian. I also told them they were my brothers and sisters.

You can see the American features in their faces. That was the overwhelming part. With me, I am always mistaken for someone from the Middle East. With them however, it was very clear they were part American.

I was so proud of the Vietnam Veterans who were with me for wanting to meet with them. They were worried they would not be liked and wasn’t sure they wanted it known they were Veterans. I told them with my experience it would probably be the opposite. They would be happy to know that they were veterans who took time to come and meet them. I was correct.

They hugged the veterans and were so happy to have the interaction with them. To all Vietnam Veteran who have been writing to me about this, I thank you. I thank you for not forgetting and caring about us.

Those forgotten from the war in Vietnam

This is a clip from a new documentary about the plight of Amerasian children left behind in the Philippines. This is also a similar story for the Vietnamese Amerasians and Amerasians from other countries as well.

Servicemen are either stationed in many of  these Asian countries or are there for a brief visit. During this time intimate relations occur between the soldiers and the women of these countries. In many cases children are born due to these visits and then are left behind without a father to endure many hardships. These incidents are not isolated or rare occurrences.

Although there are many servicemen who have developed loving relationships and have acknowledged their responsibility toward their own children, many have not. These innocent children grow up without having a father and experience much shame, stigma, and discrimination for being an interracial child. Those with African-American descent or darker skin experience this even more.

In the case of Vietnam, there were some loving relationships and not all women were prostitutes or bar girls. This is a myth and stereotype. My parents are a good example. In fact they were married in Vietnam during my father’s second tour. He met her while she was working at an American mess hall serving food and as a maid. For those who were prostitutes and bar girls- so what? They are still people who all too often are victims of poverty and other unfortunate circumstances to begin with. It would be easy to dehumanize and demonize the women as an act of justification.

Sometimes during the war in Vietnam people genuinely got separated and were unable to reunite. I hold no judgement from that time period. I understand as in the case of Vietnam for some, being young especially during wartime, lends itself toward living in the moment and not always thinking ahead with making the best choices.

I know there were some Vietnam Veterans who didn’t even know they had a child. For those who did know, many had no idea how to find them again. There are Veterans who have tried to search for their kids. Some actually found them.

My experience of being Amerasian in this country was not a positive one. I was discriminated against not only by some youth, but some adults. I was told in the United States I did not belong in this country and to go back to “my county”. I also had some adults use physical aggression toward me. Some in the Vietnamese community were also discriminative.

I felt ashamed for being from Vietnam, for being Cambodian Vietnamese, and for being Amerasian. Today it is different. I embrace being Amerasian and I’m proud of it. Despite what I experienced I still consider myself the fortunate one and am truly proud of my American Vietnam Veteran father.

I have worked hard to bridge the gap with the rest of the community about Vietnam Veterans. I proposed and advocated for a Vietnam Veteran’s Day in my state, organized many events and platforms for them to come together and share their stories, and am part of a coalition of states advocating for a national recognition. All across the nation Vietnam Veterans have been receiving their long-awaited proper acknowledgment after 40 some years. I support this whole- heartedly. You may possibly find this hard to believe since I am writing about this topic. There were many victims of the war in Vietnam, and yes the American soldiers as well. There was “good and bad” that took place from every end. When I bring awareness to Vietnam Veterans, I bring awareness to Veterans like my Vietnam Veteran father whose intention of going to Vietnam was to do good. There were many honorable men like him as well. For those who made past mistakes of ignoring their responsibilities regarding this issue, many are also trying to make things right today. Many of the Vietnam Veterans I’ve talked to are embarrassed and ashamed whether or are embarrassed by their fellow Veteran who did. Many G.I.s from the Vietnam War Era have contacted me asking for help to find their child or possible child. Of course there are those who simply want to forget. However, I’ve always said and truly believe that this whole thing regarding the war in Vietnam can not truly come full circle until everyone that has been affected by the war in Vietnam and their stories have actually been acknowledged.

I feel for the other Amerasians  as well. Although from different countries, we are all the children of servicemen.

Many Amerasians who have been able to reside in the land of our fathers have focused on moving ahead with our lives. We have worked hard, become leaders in our communities, and been successful in our lives. All we want now is to not only be able to tell our stories, but especially the stories of those less fortunate Amerasian children of American Servicemen.

On the flip side- watch powerful reunion of this father with his Filipino Amerasian daughter.

What are your thoughts? What responsibility should our Government have? What about the government of the Philippines or other countries with this similar issue? What is the solution to this issue in preventing other tragic stories in the future?

I am who you think I am, don’t YOU know? It just makes me laugh!

identity-fraud12I am who you think I am, don’t YOU know? It just makes me laugh.

It just makes me laugh…………….

~Are you wearing your Vietnamese dress to your event? No

Why not? Shame on you. Where is your pride in your culture?

It just makes me laugh………………

~Your name- where is it from? It is a Vietnamese name.

Oh- you are Vietnamese?

Well I am actually Cambodian from Vietnam with also an American father.

Why do you have to state that you are Cambodian Vietnamese? Are you trying to get attention for being a minority? Are you not just American?

I say all of this because someone (like you) asked me where my name is from or I’m asked to speak about my experiences and connection to Vietnam and the war in Vietnam so how does one leave all that out?

Actually………….. I just go around and say all the time when introducing myself……HELLO…. MY NAME IS THUY. Guess what? I am A Cambodian from Vietnam. Oh and By The Way- I am also Amerasian. In case you are wondering……………….

It just makes me laugh……………………..

~You are not really Vietnamese. You don’t like to eat certain Vietnamese food. You are Americanized!

It just makes me laugh…………………………

~I bet you cook Vietnamese food all the time, just like your mother.

Actually…….I cook more Italian food than I do Vietnamese Sometimes.

Really? Shame on you.

It just makes me laugh………..

~I decide to make Vietnamese food or share some Vietnamese and Cambodian culture. I love to visit Vietnam and Cambodia.

Why is that and why do you share these things? Are you ashamed of being an American? I wonder if you would rather live there because of your past negative experiences.

It just makes me laugh…………………

~Someone said to me – “hey I just got done watching a few kung-fu movies, it made me think of you”.

It just makes me laugh…………………..

~Some white people say- Don’t talk about race and then it won’t be an issue! They are quick to quote a couple of black men who have said- “I am not a black man, I am a man, AMERICAN.  It only becomes an issue because you talk about it”.

It just makes me laugh……….

~A Veteran says to me before one my events I organize- can I greet you with a hug?

I said no. How about a punch?

He cracked up and says: “Boy, I guess you have been in this country a long time”.

~I AM Thuy! So…… I am Buddhist! I am Americanized! I am meek! I am un-submissive! I am disrespectful! I am an Asian princess! I am Amerasian so I AM Confused! I am an ungrateful Asian! I am a spoiled American! I am delicate! I am quiet and she never argues with her man! I am too Asian! I am not Asian enough!  I EAT DOG!

I AM??????????? I do??????? Don’t YOU know?

It just makes me laugh………..

* (Added a day later)

This blog was an accounting & expression of…..YES….what I’ve heard personally throughout the years. Am I Americanized? Am I an ungrateful Asian? And so on and so on….Should I be cooking Asian food all the time? Is it a shame if I don’t? The point was- some people out there seem to know. Depending on who it is, what they perceive to be the truth about you or how they think it should be.

These assumptions just didn’t come from white people or other races, but also some Vietnamese. I am half Asian and half white. I am Amerasian, no longer a negative identity, but mine to embrace and be proud.