Forty years ago this past week, Luong was a 9-year-old boy in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) fell to the North Vietnamese Communist and he and his family fled Vietnam to eventually settle in the United States. This NPR piece tells, in his voice, his story:
“Luong and his family spent weeks in refugee camps in the Philippines and Guam before arriving in Fort Chaffee, Ark. Eventually, they moved to California. Luong attended the University of Southern California and joined ROTC, keeping good on the promise he made on that carrier flight deck. He would join the Army. … Luong knows there is irony in his presence here: A boy who fled America’s longest war, only to grow up and advise foreign forces in what became America’s new longest war. Like many back home, he talks about the parallels between the fights in Vietnam and Afghanistan.”
I’ve always admired Asian Americans that have entered the armed services, as that is not something I had seriously considered, except briefly looking into ROTC to possibly finance my college education. I probably wouldn’t have made it through the physical requirements anyways! But I think as more and more Asian Americans enter military service, the concept of the “perpetual foreigner” will slowly get chipped away.