Van-Linh T. Nguyen
Syracuse, New York, usa
How has the Vietnam war affected my life, as I know it, today? I came to the United States at the end of 1977,in the midst of winter, to a little town located in Decorah, Iowa. At that time I was 8 1/2 years old. Today I am 31 years young, am a successful dentist practicing in Syracuse, New York. I am married to a caucasian man, of Italian and German decent. He is, to me, an American. To others around me, I consider myself an American as well. Although, to myself, I am still as Vietnamese as the spring rolls or the beef noodles people sell in Saigon. The war fully affected my life and the lives of my family. We left everything we've known behind in search of a better life. I can't say that if we had chosen to stay behind in Vietnam, that I would not be a dentist...but I can definitely say that I have been blessed to be embraced by such loving and giving people--I had been given a second chance to be whatever I wanted to be. My parents had made the biggest sacrifice for my brother and me. I have assimilated well with those around me and have made the best of whatever the American society threw my way. The first 10-15 years of our lives here were not easy. My mother had to work 2 jobs to put my brother and I through private school, as well as my father through school so he could obtain his medical license to practice here. We lived in the poorest of the poor neighborhoods in San Jose, California. We never had much. But just like most every child in America, my brother and I went to college, experimented with everything available to kids out there, chose a profession to pursue, and here we are...productive members of the American society. We work and pay taxes just like the rest of the working world. We're even considered to be "yuppies". Just the other day, my 78 year-old neighbor called me a "yuppie" simply because he saw me pull up to my drive way in my BMW. At first I was quite insulted--I had never thought of myself as a "yuppie", but then I thought to myself, "why not? I worked hard to have what I have." And yes, I work hard every day of my life because I have been given a great opportunity to experience freedom--to be able to sing, to laugh, to think, to love without the fear of someone or some government telling me I can or cannot do something. I can still remember what it was like on April 30, 1975. My nanny, my aunt and I were hiding, shaking, in the cellar, because we had heard so much bombing and the sounds of helicopters flying above our house. I remember the feeling of hopelessness--I was 6, almost 7 years old in another 5 days--the chaos and the emotions I saw in my mother when she could not find out what had happened to my father. And I still remember what it was like when the Communists took over--they put my father in re-education camp for 2 years, simply because he chose to have his own thoughts and feelings about the type of life and type of government he wanted. I still remember how all around me, people were turning into "spies" for Uncle Ho...we lived in fear of expressing our thoughts and feelings. We were not allowed to be individuals. Everyday I am reminded of how lucky I am to be free...I don't think the kids growing up here, or the people who grew up here, appreciate what they have. They complain about every little thing--and have even taken to extreme measures to "bully" others into their way of thinking. (I'm talking about the incidences of Oklahoma, Columbine, Wako, etc. )The war reminds me every day that my life is beautiful--that if I work hard and live my life according to the laws of God and my conscience, I will be rewarded with freedom of choice.
I am an American now, and I will always be a Vietnamese because of the war.