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Share Your Story, Preserve Our Voices

December 23, 2014 in History

December 23, 2014 4:00 p.m.

The First Days Story Project is a collaboration between StoryCorps and PBS’s AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, which aims to collect, preserve, and celebrate the stories of Vietnamese American refugees and Vietnam veterans. The project invites members of the Vietnamese American community and Vietnam veterans with strong ties to the post war diaspora and evacuation to have a 40-minute, uninterrupted conversation with a loved one or friend, in order to document the Vietnamese American refugee experience through the voices of those who lived it.

It took me a couple viewings of “Last Days in Vietnam” before I could fully comprehend its central message: the human cost of war. As a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American, I grew up with the Vietnam War as a constant topic of conversation in my home, amplified by the fact that I am essentially a byproduct of that conflict that has left such a strong imprint on American history. My father was a lieutenant who fought in the South Vietnamese army for a democratic Vietnam alongside American soldiers. When the war ended, he tried to escape Vietnam but was eventually imprisoned in an internment/re-education camp for eight years before making his way to the United States with my family in 1992 as part of the Humanitarian Operations (HO) Program. The local newspaper in Saigon announced my family’s name as part of a series of groups qualified to go to the U.S. at the time. We said our goodbyes to our relatives at Tan Son Nhat Airport as we boarded the plane to start our new lives first in Thailand’s refugee camps for several weeks before arriving in Boston. I was four years old at the time and the fourth of five children. My mom carried my two-year old baby sister and held my hand as my dad led my three siblings, bringing only one big red luggage containing our possessions. My family’s story is one of many Vietnamese American stories from the diaspora that illustrates the refugee experience. These voices are central to painting a fuller picture of what happened during the Vietnam War and its aftermath to the formation of many resilient and vibrant Vietnamese communities throughout the U.S. today.

The importance of the First Days Story Project as an effort to collect stories and as an extension of Last Days in Vietnam lies not only in …read more


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