By Billy H., Brian M., Kurt K., & Dylan S.
In 1939, on the South side of Viet Nam, Minh Huynh was born. He lived in a small household, surrounded by greenery and rice fields, with his parents, four younger brothers, and two younger sisters. “Living with six younger siblings was more than just a struggle, but I still loved and endeared them more than anything in the world,” said Minh. They didn’t have a shower, and so when they wanted to cleanse themselves, they would use a bucket of water and poorly fashioned homemade soap. When he turned 19 in 1958, Minh began working as a tailor, cutting cloth and fashioning clothes for others, but just five years later, he was forced into the military and was immediately sent into combat.
The Vietnam war had been raging for years, and with the Vietcong as their enemy, it would be a difficult battle. Fighting alongside the South Vietnamese and American troops, Minh was deeply and truly frightened. “It was absolutely traumatizing, and just the mere sound of gunshots shocked me. It was even further distressing when I saw so many of my comrades die right before my eyes.” The war continued for a decade, until the Vietcong won and all South Vietnamese troops were captured.
Around this time, Minh and his wife adopted a child, Hung Huynh, who they loved dearly. Minh, a capitalist, was mainly targeted as a prisoner of war, for he had fought against the Vietcong, who were communists. He was immediately captured and sent to prison. Working for the Vietcong in prison was tiring, laborious, slave work; he was forced to plant and harvest rice crops for hours a day. This lasted two years until he was released from prison in 1978. After he was released, a program called Amerasian started to help kids that were half Asian and half American, by sending them to the United States if they wanted to go. Minh and Hung both had various reasons for leaving Viet Nam. When asked if he wanted to go, Minh did not hesitate and he soon flew out of Viet Nam, heading to the Philippines.
Hung had a lifelong dream of going to college and would do anything to attend a college, even if it meant leaving his home country and leaving behind friends and family. Due to being half African American and half Vietnamese, Hung was unable to attend college; the Vietnamese government had decreed that anyone of mixed race was unable to attend college. Hung was heartbroken; all he wanted to do was go to school and get an education. “My parents and I all wanted to leave Viet Nam, but I especially wanted to leave so I could go to college and get smarter. When they told me I could go to America for free and go to college at no cost, I was already ready to say yes. I wanted that more than anything in the world.”
Before arriving in the United States, Hung was sent to the Batans, a section of the Philippines; it was a rocky, mountainous area, with plenty of flourishing, green vegetation. “The area was not that different from Viet Nam. “There was a lot of greenery, the weather was nice and hot, and it was near the beach, so I felt right at home.” There, he spent a seemingly everlasting six months mastering the English language and discovering the aspects of American culture.
As time passed, Hung was eventually nearing his lengthy, 13-hour journey to the United States. “Finally,” he thought, “the liberty and freedom I’ve been longing. I can have it at last!” He embarked on the airplane, along with all the other American Vietnamese who he had stayed within the Philippines. Looking out the window, he recalled his departure from Viet Nam, and although he was indeed eager to arrive in the United States, he felt a sad wistfulness; he would dearly miss his home country, the only place he had ever known. As if on cue, the pilot started the engine, rumbling the plane and shocking Hung back to reality. Soon afterward, the plane took off, leaving the Philippines behind and leaving Hung to look forward to his new future.
In the meantime, Hung’s parents, Minh Huynh and Lan Tran, sat in their small, one bedroom home, dearly missing their son. His temporary loss brought them an unbearable melancholy. “Coming to America would be an absolute blessing to us; the land of the free is full of opportunity and is the savior to our burdened, harsh lives,” said Minh and his wife.
Soon after Hung arrived in the United States in 1990, he felt as if a loaded barbell had been lifted off his shoulders; he had finally had the weight of dependence and captivity lifted off of him. He was elated to arrive in a country of freedom, a country of independence and liberty, contrary to Viet Nam. Hung was dispatched to Mobile, Alabama, where he would stay for about two years. He lived in a small apartment, stuffed in with another family he had never met; it was cramped with all his belongings and furniture, along with the others’ property. Being on his own, he had to work multiple jobs to sustain a stable income and pay his bills. Every morning, he would wake up at 4 AM and work at a crab meat factory for four hours. He would then make his way home and prepare to go to school on little to no sleep. After school, which ended at 2 PM, he would continue to work at a very crowded and busy Burger King joint until sometimes 12 AM, leaving him with four hours of sleep until the next laborious day. As time passed and Hung continued to labor tirelessly, Amerasian contacted him once more; they were preparing to bring his parents to the United States legally! The second he received the news, Hung was beyond elated.
Once Minh and his wife arrived in the United States, they were also flown to Mobile, Alabama, where they were immediately presented with a small, one bedroom apartment. It was heavily constricted in terms of size; nonetheless, it was far more luxurious than Minh’s previous home, and so they all gladly moved in. Minh, a tailor in Viet Nam, continued his career in the United States. He would work as a tailor in one shop from 8-5 and then walk to his next job at a dry cleaner, where he would continue to work until 9 PM. His wife, Lan Tran, worked with him in the same tailor shop.
As time passed, Hung and his family grew morose over their living situation; there was only one minuscule bedroom, which Minh and his wife shared, and Hung slept on the ancient, battered couch, so they moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Minh wanted to move because he had a relative there. However, to Minh’s disappointment, Minh and his family soon found out after two years that the winters of Pennsylvania brought icy, biting weather that they could not bear. “Pennsylvania’s winters were the one thing I could not stand, and so I just didn’t want to stay there anymore,” said Minh. Once again, the family moved, this time to California, where they reside to this day. During this time, Hung had gone to five different colleges, for he wanted to become as educated as he could.
Minh is now retired with his wife, and his main priority is to pick up his grandson from school. He says, “To be free, able to enjoy life with family, and safe, is more than enough to keep me happy. Having the ability to see my grandkids grow up in a free country and not to have the worries which I had is amazing.” Hung is working as a resource manager at Cadence Design Systems. He says, “I have a wife and two kids, both of which I am beyond proud of fathering.” Both Minh and Hung are extremely grateful to be able to live a stress-free life in the United States.