Blast from the Past — A Conversation with a Fighter

3 min readJul 24, 2020


Image Credit: Fight till the end. Silk painting. Artist: Cố Tấn Long Châu. Báo Ảnh Việt Nam, 1967, no.115. British Library, SU216(2)

Original Publishing date: Friday, February 16th, 2018

I met an elderly gentleman today, about 70 years old, fought for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Very friendly and great sense of humor. He told me that he was shot through intestines in one battle, and a sniper got him in the arm in another. He also had shrapnel in the right side of his face from another battle. After the retreat of the Americans (our only defeat by a foreign army) the southern Vietnamese left behind were being slaughtered. His I.D. card he kept, despite if it was discovered he would be killed. He was thrown in prison for five years, beaten every day by the Communists. He told of how terrible those days were, as the Soviets and the Chinese had the Viet Cong fully supplied, while the Republic was cut off from all Western support.

He told me when he fled the nation, he brought his I.D. card and the clothes on his back, and women and children were on the raft as well fleeing the Red storm of Communism. 5 days and 5 nights with no food and no water, and a child spotted an airplane, and he could tell that it was an American plane. He held up his I.D. and the lamination of it caught the sunlight and signaled to the pilot that they were there. In a few hours, a U.S. Oil tanker appeared and gave them rescue. They received clothes and food, was charged a dollar a day for lodging. The captain of the ship asked him, “I can I.D. these people, but who are you?” And he gave the captain his I.D. which was registered in the Pentagon’s records. The captain verified it and set sail. The tanker took them to Japan, where they stayed for a few years, under constant scrutiny by the Japanese, who viewed the Vietnamese (like the Koreans and Chinese as well) as lower human beings from a shithole country (his words to me exactly). So they had to be extra careful to not offend anyone lest they be deported back to Vietnam — where they would’ve been killed for sure.

Eventually he found his way to the United States, and was adopted by a white woman which is how he gained his citizenship. After she passed, her Husband basically shunned him and kept all of her assets for himself. He chose not to fight, not because he was afraid, but because he didn’t want to tear apart her family.

He left and found himself here in Florida, doing social work and acting as an interpreter for the local governments who dealt with Vietnamese refugees. He worked alongside them and the Catholic Church, as the Vietnamese are Catholic mostly. He told me stories of the women who mourned their dead children, women who were rape victims, orphans, and how he helped get them acclimated to the United States. He would also aid in translating for the sick and the families of the deceased. He told that he would continue to help others until Donald Trump deported him — and we enjoyed a good laugh about that.

Its amazing to think about all the people we walk by everyday with all kinds of stories, and it all begin with him needing help with an audio recorder. Tony, it was a pleasure.