In her pretty dress and pearls, with her stylish haircut and unlined face, it was hard to believe this diminutive, delicate woman had lived—and survived—the story she was telling. It was a story of oppression, brutality, deprivation, indignity, and extreme personal loss. She was imprisoned not once, but twice: first in North Vietnam as a child and again after her family survived the long, arduous trek on foot to South Vietnam, thinking they had escaped the Communist advance.
Ms. Nguyen worked for our Special Forces at the My Phuoc Tay camp from 1967-1970 and at Tuyen Nhon from 1970-1971. She later transferred to work with the military advisory team at Kien Tuong province. When the U.S. Army started withdrawing from Vietnam, she was transferred to work at the U.S. Consulate of Region IV until the fall of Saigon. She spoke of gratitude for the American servicemen's presence and kindnesses. She minimized her heroic assistance to them, which later resulted in her second imprisonment for two years after the U.S. withdrawal, labelled unfairly as a CIA operative.
She shared a singular humorous remembrance she had: her first time driving a standard-shift military vehicle without one single lesson. She had watched it done and had a "can-do" attitude—and only knocked down one gate on her maiden back-up. It provided some needed laughs to her associates, but she was very proud that there were no casualties!
The overriding theme of her talk was resilience: doing what must be done—to survive, and do some good for others if possible. The fact that she was finally allowed to come here to the U.S. made us all happy. Xuyen and her family appreciate life in the U.S. in a way we cannot begin to imagine, and affirms that the U.S. presence there was not, in her opinion, any kind of "mistake".
We are very glad she is here. And we appreciated her sharing her story of pain and triumph with us. Our Chapter has voted to make her an Associate (non-voting) Life Member for her service to our 10th Special Services Group.
Ms. Nguyen has written a moving account of her and her family's long journey to freedom in the United States. Click here to read her poignant, life-affirming story: "The Flight to Freedom".