April 30 marked the anniversary of the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese communist forces. Every American I have ever met vilifies the American involvement in that war. I understand why. It was the first televised war, which brought home all the savagery that war entails, the loss of lives and treasure, the way it ended in a face-saving exit for the U.S.
I am conflicted. On one hand, it would have been good if we had won. Untold numbers of Vietnamese would have avoided the re-education camps and the “new economic zones’’ (Vietnam’s equivalent of being sent to Siberia). Vietnam’s economic development might be at the level of Korea rather than where it is. On the other hand, I would not have come here as a refugee if the war had turned out differently. I would not have had this education, met my wife, had this medical practice in Fresno for the last 15 years. My son Michael would not exist.
Sometimes amidst chaos and tribulations, the actions of a few shine a bright light on what it is to be human. My family was able to leave Vietnam two days before the end via an airlift for Vietnamese dependents whose lives would be in jeopardy under communist rule.
The airlift was organized under the table by a few brave CIA agents in country against the wishes of the American ambassador to Vietnam at the time. It is too easy to sit idly by minding one’s own business rather than take a righteous action demanded by one’s conscience. If it weren’t for those guys I would not be here. Thanks to those CIA spooks, I can call this country home.
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Peter Truong, M.D., Fresno