“April 30th - The Fall of Saigon” 40 years later

My musings as a second generation Vietnamese American and how I put April 30th, 1975 in perspective.

I’m not wearing black at the moment…

nor have a blacked out profile picture, or have something scribbled on my wrist. These are absolutely valid methods of paying remembrance, building solidarity, and building awareness, just not the way I choose to see today. The historians see today in many lights, the day Saigon fell to the communist government to be later officially renamed as Ho Chi Minh city, the day that United States engagement in the Vietnam War officially ended.

Wikipedia has it defined in Vietnamese the following ways.

  • Ngày mất nước(Day we Lost the Country)
  • Tháng Tư Đen(Black April)
  • Ngày Quốc Nhục” (National Day of Shame)
  • Ngày Quốc Hận” (National Day of Resentment) by Overseas Vietnamese.

For me today historically is the as the approximate date where it was finally “official” that the shit truly hit the fan for hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese people regardless of political leanings and involvement.

A Black Facebook profile picture displayed by many Vietnamese Americans on April 30th.
I didn’t wink into existence until 12 years after April 30th, 1975, so the past is best told in short through my parent’s very abbreviated story .
After nearly drowning attempting to swim to the boat my mother drifted without gas until being picked by a Russian tanker and towed to the Philippines where she stayed for another year before finally managing refugee status and a ticket to the United States.

My father, the youngest of 7 children left Vietnam several years prior on a plane, his elder siblings being educated in America were able to see the writing on the wall and had the resources and advise from mentors in American to make moves early. On the other hand, My mother found herself stuck in Nha Trang, a beach town due north of Saigon, where she stayed attempting to finish up her high school education, which would be crucial to her survival as she was the oldest of 9 siblings who would migrate to America. It wasn’t for several years passing that she was convinced by friends to make the exodus that lasted 1 year and nearly killed her at one point and stranded her in the Philippines at another. Vietnam will always be their home and by that extension my own ancestral home.

It’s been ~40 years since they both originally left
My dad cheesing like a goofball at their wedding.

That year my parents lost the stability and a hope of a democratically governed Vietnam but found that with each other and a little bit of luck, endless hard work, and great attitude you could rebuild and create your own happiness, despite the uncertainty that lay ahead. It’s been ~40 years since they both originally left and they are still smiling and taking each day as it comes with a sense of optimism. My dad, a retired architect from Dewberry Davis, is still drawing up plans for new construction in his free time and my mom, an entrepreneur, is still running a successful nail salon that is nearing it’s own 20 year anniversary. They took a poor situation and built nothing but happiness and family in a new location.

Today & Tomorrow.
My Family in 2015 — Father, Me, Mother, Sister

I never get nostalgic about all that came to pass or “could’ve been”, it’d be ridiculous to do so, I wasn’t alive during the time. These thoughts are rarely helpful in guiding me forward.

Today, represents a moment where my family and relatives proved they could persevere forward past that chaotic event.

Tomorrow, I see as a day where we will continue to do so despite what comes our way.


let me know if you think something from this + grammar (I can write code but can barely english)
nguyenhstephen@gmail.com or twitter @stephenitis

afterthoughts #

why take so much effort into blogging and adding photos to my thought when I could just silently reflect by myself?

This is really for my children and family to see and read one day if they ever decide to look back and wonder what their father, uncle, or great grand cousin thought about his existence as a second generation Vietnamese American. It’s how, I, as a mid 20 year old choose to express myself and hope that these thoughts live on and persist to hopefully shed some light on who I am and how I hope to live. The stories of my elders are seldom recorded and thus risk becoming lost. It’s important for me to snapshot my thoughts for those that come after me so they can disagree, love, hate, and maybe understand who I am and the actions that follow.

pay it forward #

Pay it forward and volunteer for your local community w/ volunteer match where you can.

Here are some organizations that have proven to me how awesome they truly are donate, volunteer, or just read their blogs and follow them!

  • Catalyst Foundation (Minneapolis, MN — fights trafficking and runs a culture camp you can volunteer for in the US)
  • MAUVSA (DC, VA, MD, and NC — building confident young Vietnamese American leaders across the Mid-Atlantic)
  • Children of Vietnam (North Carolina, USA — serves the disabled, ill, and homeless families regain dignity and independence)
  • Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation (Sydney, Australia — helps save trafficked children, check out their blog)