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The Making of a Believer

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For more than thirty years I lived the adventure of a lifetime. The adventure begins as I, a forgotten son of a Buddhist family, am raised by my grandparents during the Colonial War. Soon I move to the city of My Tho where I meet, face to face, the Tet Offensive, and later, the woman with whom I will fall deeply in love. I was accused of being a Communist and narrowly escaped death and also made a miraculous escape from Viet Nam in the midst of the final offensive by the North Vietnamese Communist Army. All took place before the age of 31.

Twenty-seven years after the fall of South Viet Nam, my three children have grown up; they have worked hard to pursue their dreams in the land that God had predestined for my family. In May of 2000, my family drove from Iowa to Washington D.C to attend my son’s graduation from the United States Secret Service. Soon, Thai would serve my new country as I hoped my two sons would twenty-five years ago when my family was on the way to the United States naval base in the Philippines after the fall of South Viet Nam to the Communists.

After the ceremony, we toured the D.C, area. Then we walked towards the Viet Nam War Memorial, which is a monument I had wanted to visit for years. It holds many painful connections to my past. I continued to walk along the long, black, marble wall which was filled with flowers and notes from relatives and friends of the fallen soldiers. I wiped tears from my face and suddenly realized that it had been twenty-five years since the lengthy and bloody war ended. Unfortunately, it was not over in my memories nor in my dreams

Standing at the memorial, I looked at the sculpture of a wounded American soldier who was held by a nurse. His comrade stood by his side holding an M-16. He looked up to the sky courageously and defiantly. At that moment, I began to feel very emotional about our lost war. I read name after name on the list of more than fifty-eight thousand American soldiers who lost their lives in my homeland. I could not control my emotions as I wept because I knew that I was a citizen of the United States in my heart.

As I wept, I remembered – I remembered the last time I felt that same sense of loss and respect. It was on a sad morning in August of 1965. On that dark day for my family, my mother and I stood in front of my dear brother’s body after he was killed as a soldier at Thi Bnh village of a remote province of South Viet Nam. I began to remember the hard road of my troubled past which began in the early days of the Colonial War.

It all begins in 1947 when my parents leave the "Jungle of the Killers", an area occupied by poisonous snakes, crocodiles and criminal gangsters. We moved Saigon after the French returned to reclaim their colonial rule. However, after four long and wearisome years in Saigon, my parents’ hope of a better life is just a fading dream when they can not feed the family of four children. Then I am sent to Tn An village of Long An province to live with my grandparents who are caught in the fog of war that has disintegrated his family.

At twelve years of age I witness the end of the Colonial War and the beginning of the Viet Nam War. I move back to Saigon where I grow more distant from my father. Then, on January 31, 1968, the Tết Offensive begins. It is the strongest assault by the Communists since the start of the war, which marks the beginning of what I call my journey towards fulfilling God’s giving destiny for me. On that fateful day, I help Thủy, the woman I dearly love, and her family to escape under enemy fire before their home is bombed and destroyed by American fighter planes.

Afterwards, I am drafted into the South Vietnamese Army. After three months in the front lines, I am transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture to become the manager of an agricultural research farm near the city Ban M Thuột in the Central Highlands. In this tiny community of less than five hundred people, as a child of God, I strengthen the community with discipline, control it by conviction and fill it with love. I try my best to help my people to attain better lives, which is almost impossible during wartime. Also, in this isolated place, the Lord reveals to me the future of my family after He saves my life in a miraculous way that surpasses my knowledge.

As the "Vietnamization" of the war progresses with uncertain results, the fog of war begins to creep near the research farm. Unfortunately, I realize that I cannot escape from the war as I thought I would. My life also changes as I learn how to balance my time between work and family. This comes following an unexpected reunion leading to my marriage with Thủy whom I dearly loved after three silent years.

On January 27, 1973, President Nixon’s plan of "Vietnamization" was completed, and the Paris Peace Pact was signed. But peace in freedom seems to be out of reach as the wind of war begins to threaten the well-being of my young family. The peace agreement reaches its second year, but peace in honor appears to be out of reach for the South Vietnamese Army. After the fall of Phứơc Long province to the North Vietnamese Communist Army, I strongly believe that the Communists are making preparations for a final offensive. Therefore, I change my plans of going to the United States for a six month agricultural training session in order to stay with my wife who would soon give birth to our second child.

Soon after, on March 10, 1975, the Communist Army attacks my home, Ban M Thuột. My family and I devise a plan to escape from the raging battle. Then we begin our long and dangerous journey through the ominous jungle and the South China Sea. We are on the heels of the Việt Cộng with little food, water and supplies from Ban M Thuột to Saigon—our gateway to freedom.

The city of Xun Lộc, the gateway to Saigon, is the last line of defense for our army; the line collapses after a fierce battle. Soon after, Saigon is encircled by a ring of steel of more than two hundred thousand North Vietnamese Communist troops armed with tanks and artillery. The last group of refugees is airlifted from the United States Embassy. In this hopeless moment, a horrible feeling of the fear of capture again overcome me. My family has no place to go. But again the Lord reveals his power. He intervenes and delivers my family out of Saigon through the dark night as the final assault begins.

This is the story of the great fight I have fought, the path I have walked, and the faith I have kept from my journey in the rice paddy of Viet Nam to the cornfield of Iowa.

Copyright 2004