Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bravery in search of Freedom

His name is Huang Sinh Nguyen. He came from a small fishing village in the delta region of Vietnam and he is my friend. He tells all of us Americans his name is Hanson Wind, because we can’t pronounce his name correctly.

He was only 14 in 1975 at the end of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign and the fall of the Republic of Vietnam. His father was a Sergeant in the ARVN and as such was placed in a “re-education camp” with most of the other non commissioned officers of the Army of South Vietnam. In reality, his father was held hostage until a large enough bribe could be gathered together by the family to pay for his release.

In a way, the family was lucky, if his father had been a commissioned officer, he most assuredly would have been executed along with the other 65,000 plus, democides committed by the Communists against government officials and military personnel.

After 2 years, the family finally managed to acquire enough money to pay a bribe and the father was release. He returned to his village and made a living for his family, as best he could, and encouraged his son, in whispers, in the night, to escape Vietnam and make his way to America.

The entire family was watched. Every village had its own apparatchik who wore a yellowish uniform. Behind his back he was called a “yellow water buffalo” because he was a big fat slob. He watched for every infraction and extorted money under the threat of re-education.

Huang’s father could not leave his wife and daughters to fend for themselves but he knew that if Huang escaped on his own that nothing was likely to be done to the rest of the family. Huang and another villager decided to build a boat.

500,000 Vietnamese died trying to escape from Vietnam by boat about half of that number were caught and executed by the Communists. It wasn’t an effort to take lightly.

So, when he was 16 years old he would sneak into the jungle with stolen materials and built a boat along a creek that ran into the river just a short way from the ocean. It took 3 months for him and his friend to build a boat.

When they were ready to stock it with some water and food to begin their journey, they were arrested. The Communists had know all along that they were building a boat so they let them finish it and then confiscated it when it was done. In effect what they had done through great effort was, build a boat for the Communists and get thrown into a re-education camp.

Haung was beaten and worked until he dropped then forced to listen to Communist propaganda which he had to recite back under fear of further beatings. He spent 9 months in “re-education” before his family could buy his way out. He never told me what happened to his friend.

Something happened to him in that camp, to this day, he can’t stand to be restrained, he gets restless if he lives anywhere too long and feels he must move on. But his resolve was strengthened and he swore to himself that he would escape or die trying.

Almost immediately after his release he started making plans to escape again.

He took his time and told no one. At night, when he could, he would sneak away to build another boat. This time he went back further into the jungle before he started to build. Being limited in tools and materials, he built the best boat he could. He said it was less than 12 feet long but built deep.

He knew many other people who wished to escape but owing to the size limitation only 14 people could fit on the boat.

Just a few nights before his escape he approached the 13 people he was sure of and told them of his plan. All of them agreed and on the moonless night they left, they quietly left behind all of their worldly possessions, taking with them any gold or jewelry they had hidden and the clothes on their backs.

Down the river, through the delta and into the ocean. Southward along the coast of Vietnam in the dark. Going ashore and hiding patrol boats during the day, to the Southern most tip of Vietnam, then Southeast across the Gulf of Thailand, toward Thailand and sanctuary.

Almost immediately their small boat had started leaking.

A journey of some 500 miles, 350 across open sea in an open boat. People sleeping in shifts because it was too crowded for very many to lay down at a time. Bailing water from the boat at an ever increasing rate.

The Boat never made it to Thailand. They were beginning to despair of ever reaching safety or living to see land.

Just about when all hope was lost, they spotted an oil drilling platform and they approached it. The boat had been leaking so badly that they had been bailing continuously to keep it afloat. As Huang stepped foot off his boat, it sunk.

After a few days the little group of refugees were transported to Thailand, to await sponsorship and a free life.

Huang, 18 months later was sponsored by a Vietnamese shrimper in Galveston Texas with the help of a Catholic refugee relief agency.


beakerkin said...

Excellent Post.

I find it frustrating that NYU history majors do not know about boat people, re-education camps and killing fields. They get a sanitized version of what happened
and the legacy of the left. They know about Mai Lai but nothing about Hue.

There is a side note to this from my perspective. If you go to a map and find Ferndale NY you will see it is in close proximity to Woodstock in nearbye Bethel. That is where my family spent its summers.

A young child went with his mother to Liberty . He was carrying an American Flag. A hippie bastard stole that kids flag. I was that kid and I never forgot.

I remember my first trip to NYC as a child. The protesters were burning the flag I adored. They were calling my heros cop and firemen pigs and babykillers. They were saying horrible things about my President. What those protesters
did to me should qualify as child abuse.

From an early age I despised the protesters. They litteraly turned me into a Republican with their antics. I never forgot or forgave them .

Often an older radical will ask me
"Why are you a Republican ?". I tell them about ehat I saw and the flag. You might have won the protest but you created a generation of Republicans. They often try to spin but I talk about the toll in the Killing Fields and in Vietnam and thirty years of repression. The conversation ends quickly after that.

Warren said...

I haven't see Huang for a few years. He used to stop and see me a couple of times a year.

He would work as a truck driver, mechanic, construction worker, sometimes as a cook or waiter. He told me that Chinese restaurants were always looking for Orientals to work as waiters, it didn,t matter what kind, just as long as they looked oriental.

His whole family eventually managed to get out of Vietnam. Most of them live somewhere in New Jersey. I don't know where.

He worked for me, part-time, for almost a year, and with me at another job, for a little over a year.

He has a wonderful sense of humor and I used to tease him by pretending I didn't understand his jokes. We had long discussions deep into the night about freedom and politics and what it means to be a warrior.

One day he stopped to see me at my place of employment, the one he worked at for a year, and one of my fellow co-workers asked him how he liked his new job as a truck driver. Huang said, "Its OK", and the guy was clearly expecting more of and answer so I chimed in:

The first day, he drove with a partner, and Huang put a dog up in the cab with his bag. His partner said, "The company doesn't allow you to bring a pet!" And Huang said, "That's no pet, that's my lunch!".

Huang thought that was hilarious, and every time he got the chance he would repeat the story. :^)

Evidently I'm a few years older than you, I never had a run in with hippie types until I left the Army in 1972. It wasn't hardly traumatic for me, I was invited to a party and was soundly snubbed and heard a few whispered, "baby killers".

I was thoroughly pissed, but I just left. I had done nothing to be ashamed of whereas these little assholes had their parents "buy" them deferments to save their lily white asses; I had done my duty.

Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Thank God that slimy little Communist twinkle-toed cocksucker John Kerry didn't get elected.

/Gunny Hartman

I lost an uncle I never met in that damned war. I was just a kid, sitting on my father's lap when Saigon fell, watching the helicopters evac people from rooftops on TV. He was crying.

He cried because he knew what was coming.

Whenever lefty goober people ask me why America was in Vietnam, I always say "to stop the Communists from killing and displacing millions in Cambodia in the early 1970s"

Shuts them up right quick.

Warren said...

"to stop the Communists from killing and displacing millions in Cambodia in the early 1970s"

Works for me!

Jason_Pappas said...

It's a wonderful story Warren. It does what no statistics or bogus ideological explanation can do: tell the human truth. They used to make movies with poignant stories like that. I'm afraid we’ve forgot how hard it’s been for some people and how brave they are – in a quiet and dignified way.

Warren said...

Jason, thank you for stopping by.

I have been privileged to know many of these souls. Not just Vietnamese but Cubans, WW2 POWs, a Nazi Concentration camp survivor, Eastern Block people that escaped Communism and many others.

I love these people, they epitomize what freedom is about and each and every one of them have been unassuming and dignified.

They seem, somehow, to sense that I want to here their story and that I hold them in esteem.

Their stories need heard.