Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
My mother was a Vietnamese national and is now an U.S. citizen, and my father was an American GI. I, the first of seven children, was born in Saigon and was nine months old when I came to this country, so I have no memories of the place of my birth.
Though I do not look Vietnamese-standing six feet tall, weighing 260 pounds and having a fair complexion-I am constantly reminded by my given name that half of my heritage belongs to Vietnam, which every day causes me to pause and think of the path I have taken and of those I could have easily followed. I often wonder what my life would have been like if my father hadn't insisted that my mother and I come to the United States and that we had remained in Vietnam. I wonder if I would have turned out to be a different person whose interests and desires would be foreign to me now. Poverty, and Vietnam is a poor country, does strange things to human development.
For me, the Vietnam War is a pivotal personal moment, a moment in history which has brought together my parents and defined who I am. I come from war, which has increased the likelihood of my two cultures, separated by 10,000 miles of the vast Pacific Ocean, meeting and coming together.
My mother, without me, has returned to Vietnam twice. Unfortunately, I have not been able to return with her. The second time my older of my two sisters returned with my mother, and when my sister speaks of her journeys to and in Vietnam, she often tells the story of how family, friends and neighbors in Vietnam, though happy to meet and see my sister, ask for me, the nine-month old baby who flew away to the United States. Eveyone should visit the place of their birth, and one day I will.