Vietnam 1975: The Torch of Freedom
I was born on September 24th, 1975 in the city of DaNang, Vietnam five months after the Fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Communists. My daddy, a Republic Vietnam soldier, was taken prisoner by the Communists in May 1975 and held for seven years in a POW/Re-education camp.
During this time, many families were placed under surveillance by the North Vietnamese thugs. Personal assets were subject to seizure. My mother being a Republic Vietnamese Officer’s wife was watched continuously. In order to avoid arrest as a “counterrevolutionary” due to hiding one’s own assets, my mother pretended to be poor with no money to buy food for her new infant. Moreover, her milk dried up because of malnutrition; rice and salt were the only two things I was fed since birth.
Because people were still not moving out of the cities at the expected rate, the threat of jail and being Brain Washed was used to try to speed up the relocation program known as the New Economic Zones (NEZs). All and all, Communists tried everything to make sure people moved out of their towns, so they could confiscate people’s properties and assets. Clearly, refusing to move to the NEZs could easily mean imprisonment or execution.
My mother with three small children ages 6, 5, 2, and an infant – myself, were forced to leave DaNang to the NEZs. My elderly grandparents were successful business owners but chose to give up everything to follow my mother and help with the four small grandchildren.
We struggled from one jungle to another. My earliest memory as a child was when my daddy was granted a two day pass to visit his family. I was so happy to see him for the very first time, singing and dancing and laughing all day long. I remember climbing up on his shoulders, putting my arms around his neck one morning as we were brushing our teeth at an outside water vase. I was four years old! I expected to do the same thing the following morning, but sadly, I realized he was gone. I did not see him again for a long, long time.
We gradually migrated Southward to the Mekong Delta area after spending a couple of years in the harsh Central Highlands living off whatever the jungles would provide in food and shanty. In one very frightening incident in 1979, my oldest sister and brother fell off a rickety rope bridge into the river below. They were badly hurt and drowning. My mother, emotionally drained, quickly decided to pay triple the normal fee for transportation by a rare motor biker who just happened to come along at the right time. If we had been only five minutes later to the medical clinic, my siblings’ lives would have been lost. My mother sacrificed working six months overtime to pay off the medical bill. Furthermore, my grandparents were very frail to the extent that my grandfather passed away due to starvation. He gave his life so the rest of us could survive. In addition, because of bad food, contaminated water, severe living conditions, and unacceptable working environments; my grandmother and my mother both later developed diabetes. The doctors had to amputate several extremities from my grandmother’s body in order for her to survive a brief period of time before she died.
With my daddy finally released from prison and rejoined to the family, we settled down in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh city) and I started school. The schools of course were filled with Propaganda in favor of Communism with Ho Chi Minh posters, banners, and mottos everywhere. The Propaganda education program forced students to learn by heart all biased educational materials since first grade.
When I was in second grade, I went home and was running around the house singing the praises of Ho Chi Minh. Guess what? My daddy was so mad, taking issue since he had been persecuted by the Communists; he spanked me – hard! The next day I went to my school and tore down all the pictures and banners of Ho Chi Minh in my classroom. Mr. Hung Lam, a school Director, not wanting a money making deal to slip away, immediately demanded my parents or guardians come to a serious meeting about my bad “anti-Communist” behavior!???!! At age eight, I had the foresight that if I brought my daddy to school, there would be a big fight. Hence, I cleverly asked my beloved grandmother to attend the meeting. Mr. Hung Lam used extortion of a fine from my elderly grandmother… otherwise I would get detention, a bad grade, or even expulsion from school. Imagine, I was only eight years old!!!
The Humane Organization program of the U.S. government that applied to former POW’s held for at least three years made my daddy eligible since he was jailed for seven years. My family received the approved papers in early1990. However, my daddy was fearful it was all a trick and he would end up in another POW camp. This went on for three years until he realized all his POW friends were leaving the country, so he finally decided to take advantage of the opportunity for my entire family to immigrate to the freedom land, America, in August 1993.
by Jessica Nguyen TorchLady
Reposted with permission by ReaganGirl.com 9/2/13
Jessica and Colonel Joe are the driving force behind the effort to make April 4, “President Gerald R. Ford Remembrance Day.” They also organized the July 12-14, 2013 Operation Babylift Reunion for all whose lives have been in some way touched by the amazing humanitarian airlift which took place in April of 1975 as a result of President Fords call to action.
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