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A Miraculous Journey

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"It was April 30th, 1975" said my father as he started to weep in tears when telling me his story and experience in Vietnam. I could never forget those nights where we would sit together as a family and reminisce on our past. Without saying a word, I listened carefully to my father's words. The emotions and gestures manifested by my father were as if he was reliving the same tragic experience; his face pale and his eyes red. My father's story was not just an ordinary fairy tale; it was a sea of memories that ran deep inside my heart as I began to comfort my father and experienced what he had experienced through the shedding of my tears for my country's loss. After the war, there was nothing left but poverty, fear, hopelessness, and corruption. April 30th, also known as Black April, marked the day when the American forces withdrew from Vietnam. This day had significantly impacted Vietnam as well as Western countries as millions of Vietnamese fled overseas while others stayed to continue fighting in an already defeated battle. A number of innocent lives laid dead on the streets and rice fields. The sound of babies' cries was accompanied by gunshots, both combined to produce a horrifying tune that day. People ran for their lives, by feet to nearby countries and by boat to overseas. Furthermore, the whole city was devastatingly tattered apart. History often suggested that Vietnamese escaped to follow the "American Dream," but certainly, this was a false claim because they had no idea what the American Dream is. Living in a country overwhelmed by terrors and lacked of security, the only solution was to escape, although Vietnamese refugees did not know where to escape, but then, again, at that time, anywhere was better than home.

My father was a Vietnamese military officer in Vietnam. Life was very difficult for him and the rest of my family because of one main reason: it was during the time period when our homeland was in a civil war (the Vietnam War). He was forced to join the South Vietnamese Army to fight the communists, the Viet Cong. "Life was very difficult, not just for me alone but for everyone," said my father. The hardest thing was trying to figure out what path should he take. Questions such as "What if I die in battle? Would I be taken as prisoner and tortured under the hands of the Viet Cong? Or Would South Vietnam be victorious with the aid of the American government?" raced inside my father's mind. I could still remember the intense training that my father had to go through. It required him to run through the jungle and swim across rivers. The training was exhausting because the soldiers barely had enough food to fulfill their energy requirement. They had to survive mainly on rice and fish sauce; very little meat was provided.

On January 3rd, 1975, the communist infantry regiment violated the law and attacked my father's battalion. Just a little over two months into the battle, my father was wounded by the communist's cannon-ball. On March 10th, my father returned to the military hospital in Pleiku.

On the 17th, his battalion received an order to evacuate back to Tuy Hoa. Soon after that, the communist shot my father's feet. They brought him to a nearby stream and pointed the gun to his forehead, threatening to shoot him. At that time, my father closed his eyes and did what anyone in that situation would have done, that is, he prayed to Buddha. Fortunately, the communists decided not to shoot him; instead, they gave him a stick as an aide to follow them. They told my father that they were almost at a secret zone, and when they got there, they would take good care of him, an ironic promise. It turned out that the communists took my father up and down the hills to a far away place from sunrise to dawn. When they finally arrived at that place, the communists wrapped my father's legs and gave him a handful of horrible dried rice to eat. He was kept there for five days. "It was a horrible experience," said my father. "You don't know how cruel they were to me." The Viet Congs made my father toiled from sun rise til dawn, making him perform the hardest tasks possible.

Soon, the communists received an order to situate at another location so they released my father. With his wounded legs, he walked all by himself back to Cam Ranh, which was approximately 80 miles. On the way, my father felt hungry and therefore ate anything he could possibly find. He then felt tired and laid down to rest. Even though he was tired, he still tried his best to hold onto the strength and courage and try to remain calm and stay alive because he knew that his family was depending on him. He told himself that he could never give up, not when he was still young and when his country was facing a dilemma. People passed by and saw my dad lying helplessly. They felt sorry for him, but there was nothing they could do. When my father felt better, he got up and walked all the way home. When he arrived home, the house was on fire, and there was a dead man and woman lying in front of the house. He thought that the dead woman was my mother, but fortunately, it was not. My father then walked to my grandparent's house, but no one was there. He discovered that the house was recently destroyed when the communists came. My father lived there until April 24th, 1975.

"When the South Vietnamese army surrendered, I was very shocked" stated my father. He was worried of the things that could happen to him, his family, and the rest of the country. My father's comrades as well as my whole family had to find routes to escape from Vietnam for they feared persecution against the South Vietnamese soldiers. My family found a boat and went down the river hoping to find a route, any route. For my family, this was the scariest trip, fearing the fact that the Viet Cong had surrounded us on both sides of the river. The Viet Cong had their guns pointed at my family's boat but did not shoot. The war was already over, and both sides knew that there was no point in shooting. Yet, my father's army and the



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