Though I belong in the post-war generation by age, my life has been and continues to be profoundly affected by the Vietnam war. It is like a heavy baggage that is assigned to me along with the refugee status as I came to America fifteen years ago.
I am now an American citizen, finishing my last year of law school at a major academic institution. Yet, I am often stricken by grief over the memories and the impacts of the Vietnam war. I do not claim to speak for all Vietnamese-Americans of my generation. I do know that within my circle of close friends who define themselves as Vietnamese-Americans, the post-war experience DEFINES us.
We too have lost family members. For those whose fathers' lives were spared, our lives were plagued with their absence, sometimes physically but certainly emotionally because of their involvements in the war. What prize must a child deliver to mend his/her father's broken spirit because of defeat, and loss of fortune, status, identity and homeland? We too lost our innocence, ironically in the various school grounds scattered across America. What advanced degrees and measures of American success must we hold up to silence the shouts of prejudice and hatred that continue to reverberate in our psyche? For now and evermore - I fear, I will be permanently without a homeland. What material or spiritual luxuries can I afford that will soothe the pain of discontinuity and displacement?
I don't mean to minimize the losses that millions of Americans experienced, nor the traumas Vietnam veterans have to endure as the result of America's involvement in the war. I only mean to call your attention to more silent sufferings that continue to this day.
For the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese-Americans, the loss of history and heritage will continue to burden generations to come. The casualties of this war are not only by the names of men and women on the Vietnam Monument. Please don't forget that.
Hoaithi P. Nguyen