Remembering Asian American Veterans: Drew Pham

I stumbled across Drew Pham’s story when posting a story on StoryCorps about my mother.  My father was a Navy veteran, and I was curious to hear other veteran’s stories.  This segment, which was played on NPR, talks about some of the incredibly difficult situations he had to go through when he was deployed as an Army Captain in Afghanistan.   Since the segment first aired in March 2014, I decided to see if anything else happened to him since then.  I found out that a lot more did happened and that he has a lot more interesting stories tell, such as how being Asian American played out in growing up, joining the Army, and even in provoking the Taliban’s response to him.

So what else happened to him?  For one thing, he got cancer.  In this story from Time, he says he is remission now (notably, after he received a bone marrow transplant).  More importantly and definitely more interestingly, he had his life story told in the form of this graphic story.  It goes over growing up Vietnamese American, and how media images made him think of being a good guy in the US military.  I’m not going to describe it all (it’s best experienced seeing it yourself), but some highlights are graffiti that the Taliban left specifically for him, the questions that he and other veterans hate to hear, and what makes him proudest of his experiences.  It will also make you think about the toll taken overseas and here at home by the wars fought for “America’s interests.”

If you thought that his story is interesting or want to preserve a veteran’s stories, consider StoryCorp’s Military Voices Initiative.  We have also written about the Library of Congress Veteran history project.  Another thing to learn from his story is the importance of bone marrow donations.   Drew Pham’s life was probably saved by one, but other Asian Americans have not been lucky enough to get a match.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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