At the airbase, my mom, all nearly 5 feet of her--laid her body to cover all three of us children while my dad jumped from aircraft to aircraft trying to find one with fuel. He did. A chinook that he used to fly us and other desperate families to the airport in Saigon. A trek that forever changed our lives.
The stories my parents have told of that those days are far more dramatic, far more heart-breaking than any Hollywood movie. Every decision they made affected the rest of our lives--like when my mom refused to leave when women and children were taken to an island off the coast of Vietnam. She didn't want to leave my dad's side.
The struggles my parents went through after arriving in America are also something no movie has ever captured. Tears roll down my face now as I write this--an unbearable feeling of sadness and heartbreak, gratitude and anger--other emotions I can't even name. They worked hard to start our lives over again, We didn't know the language, the people, or the food. It wasn't until years later that my parents were able to send a cryptic letter to Dong Ha via Sweden to let their families know we were still alive.
I love Vietnam and miss it like a bird that needs to fly south. But here we are, nearly 4 decades later and America--with all her good and bad--still embraces me and my family with freedom and opportunity. I feel forever indebted to this great country...to my parents...and to that little moped that carried a family of five out of hell.