Sound Off: A lesson on freedom from Vietnam

Today I sold my ‘92 Honda Accord to a man who recently became a U.S. citizen, along with his family, legally. We rode together from the Mukilteo ferry where I picked him up and along the way he told me his story in broken English. It deserves to be retold.

He was born in South Vietnam in 1949. In 1969 he entered the army as a young officer. In 1970 he was married and in 1971 the young couple had their first son, during the Vietnam war. He told me that there was a point in the war where if America had executed one more offensive we would have beaten the North Vietnamese and they would most likely have surrendered, preserving freedom in that country. Instead, he and his fellow South Vietnamese watched in horror as we quit and left him and his fellow countrymen to the fate of the Communists.

The first thing the Communists did was to tell him that he must attend a week-long class to learn the ways of Communism. His classes ended five-and-a-half years later, after serving as a POW and being forced to labor for the Communists.

His wife found out he was still alive only after two years of being denied information by the Communists. She then was allowed to bring him meals for the next 1,200 days of his captivity: 16 hours of work, one bowl of rice. Then his firstborn son was denied public education since he was the son of a South Vietnamese army officer, and eventually died at the hands of an incompetent and unsympathetic Communist doctor.

He could not get to America quick enough when President Reagan finally offered asylum to him in 1988, along with the release of the tens of thousands of other South Vietnamese political prisoners. When he and his family got here he tried to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, but they said he was too old. He wanted to do something to end the tyrannical rule of the Communists. He told me that the current struggle for freedom in Iraq reminds him of the struggle his country once faced years ago, and he wishes that America would not do to Iraq what we did to his country — leave it to the evil ones.

He said he cannot understand why some people in Congress are so quick to call for retreat, as they did back during his war, and he thinks they do not understand the price of freedom or what the consequences are of giving up. And I could not agree with him more.

Clay Miller lives in Coupeville.

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