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Texts From My Parents: What It Was Like To Leave Vietnam

Aircraft carriers, refugee camp, and a lost shoe.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. This morning, my dad texted my mom and me.

They left Vietnam four days apart: my mom from the central region and my dad from what is now Ho Chi Minh City.

My parents met three years later in an ESL summer school class at my mom's high school. Lol.

My dad and his family stayed in San Diego's Camp Pendleton. My mom was shipped to Arkansas. She lost one of her shoes along the way. :( But she was lucky not to have lost more.

It was a deeply personal and emotional thing, reading my parents' memories of fleeing their home country.

My dad just thought his family was on vacation. He wouldn't return "home" for decades.

I grew up in San Jose, California, a city with the biggest population of Vietnamese Americans outside of Vietnam. Having parents who were once refugees was just a fact of life. We never talked about the war.

I learned of the war mostly through the horrifying Pulitzer Prize-winning photos (much like these) in U.S. history textbooks.

"We can not fail." This hit me like a ton of bricks. They were very lucky to make it out. Many didn't.

Nick and Booj are my brothers. They're too young to understand now, but my parents (and my parents' parents) went through a hell of a lot so that we could have the best chance at living a fruitful life. So that we could live in a place where opportunity and Hot Pockets are plentiful. They did it for us, and I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make the most of it.