Lost at sea: Vietnamese family reunites with the men who rescued them

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Published 2018-03-10
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, more than a million desperate people fled Vietnam. Many escaped in small boats, including Vietnamese immigrant Lauren Vuong. Now a successful attorney, she's accomplished a lot in the four decades since then but one goal remained elusive: finding and thanking the men who rescued her at sea. Don Dahler reports.

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All Comments (21)
  • I was on the USS Parsons (DDG-33) when we rescued Vietnamese boat people in 1979 and again in 1980. To see the squalor, hunger and thirst on the boats was heart wrenching. This story brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that I'd been part of something good. Thank you.
  • D Le
    There are no words to express my gratitude to American people. America opened her arms to accept and welcome me from the refugee camp.
    When I came here, I knew only few words in English. I got a job as a janitor after few days setting my feet on this beautiful land. I worked two, three jobs a week. After two years, I decided to go school full time and worked part time. I am now retired at young age and travel the world and also volunteer to do some community works.
    From bottom of my heart I am very grateful to America. If I cannot do anything better for this country, I will ever never do any harm to this beautiful land.
  • Pepe Aguilar
    I served aboard the USS Robison (DDG-12), and we rescued two groups of Vietnamese refugees in December of 1980 (one of them known today as "Boat 262"). I was 20 years old at the time. Certain haunting images, especially the burials at sea and the starving children, are part of who I am. My only regret was not being able to do more for them. Those days I walked among heroes...Vietnamese and American.
  • lgarcia67
    One of my ex-bosses was a Vietnam vet. He was actually part of a special ops group. He had the most harrowing stories about Vietnam. He was very traumatized. Yet he was absolutely dedicated to helping the Vietnamese community and immigrants in general. A very kind hearted man. To this day I still talk to him even though he is retired. I’m happy that we crossed paths.
  • Tony P
    As a Vietnam veteran 67, welcome to our great country. Like all countries it's not perfect but it's people like you that make it even better. Welcome.....Blessings to you and your family.
  • Minhvu Ly
    I am not ashamed to admit I cried listening to her poignant and eloquent description of how grateful she is.
  • Quang B
    I too am a boat person from 1977! I used to be embarrassed about it but now I'm proud to be one of millions of boat people from Vietnam!
  • She said it so well... I am Vietnamese cause it's my heritage but I am an American cause it's my country... may God bless her and the men who saved them...
  • Brian
    How can you not love these people? Both the rescued and rescuers represent the best of what it means to be an American.
  • Hai Thai
    I was also a boat person. Although I was not as lucky as Lauren. But I still feel grateful to my second country. The United States of America and I am proud to be American - Vietnamese!!!
  • steven maza
    After listening to this story, it makes me stop and appreciate just all that I have in life. Being born and raised here in the states we take it for granted. This story is a reminder of just how blessed we are.
  • racer D
    As a Vietnam veteran , how I wish we could have saved all the people of south Vietnam, such wonderful people.
  • Hey from New Orleans. We have a long established Vietnamese community here. People came from Saigon, and the Mekong to settle in Louisiana, the deltas being so much alike geographically. The weather, the maritime/fishing industry..now the children born in New Orleans to Vietnamese immigrants... are lawyers, Doctors, and very much a part of life here. I adore Banh Trang, and Vietnamese dishes. And so appreciate this wonderful addition to the flavor of our state!
  • Richard Folkman
    My cousin was 19 years old when he was killed in Vietnam. When the refugees got here to the US in the '70's, I never hated any one of them. We all knew they needed a chance too. These stories honor my cousin. We are happy for these families. Vietnam suffered so much. And us too. I hate war. My aunt cried till she died , when she remembered my cousin.
  • Viet Nguyen
    I was a Vietnamese boy who was brought to the US in 1975 by a retired USAF colonel and sponsored by a former US veteran to resettle in the US with the help of the church. I want to thank all the American people with big hearts and I salute the US soldiers once served in Vietnam. I don't think we would ever be given the opportunity to live free and to prosper if we ever immigrated to other countries. The US still needs more work but it's my country now so we have to make it better for all.
  • Cho Banco
    I am an old man but I still cried every time I watched. I also escaped in a small fishing boat. We were lost at sea for 8 days. During this time I had a tiny cup of muddy water a day and this was all I had. I did not go to the restroom once. I think my body was in the early stage of shutting down. Had we not seen the US and Indonesia oil refinery I would only last for a couple of days. Oh well, FREEDOM is NOT FREE. I am an engineer and this is my story I like to share.
  • Brown 25
    Vietnamese people are very family oriented , hard working and job conscientious. They had made a very positive contribution to this country.
  • Magic Mike
    What a beautiful touching story! In the early 1980’s, I was the refugee coordinator for the USDA food stamp program. I had the opportunity to meet many Vietnamese people who were coming into our country at that time. So many of them, within months of arriving here in the United States, secured employment, learned our language, and went to school/universities. Within months, they were off of the welfare and food stamp programs and were supporting themselves. And, they were all so thankful to have this opportunity to live and work in the United States. What a remarkable people, they are!
  • Steven Travanti
    This story should be taught in schools an Appreciation for this incredible country!!! The appreciation these people have is amazing, and I mean on both sides. To help someone is the greatest thing you can accomplish. The persons helped in turn thrived, what a tidal wave of good that came from this action.
  • Francis Shaw
    My last cruise in the navy, aboard the Enterprise, we were able to rescue a family in 1978. They had seen one of our aircraft flying overhead so they set their fishing boat on fire to attract the attention of the aircraft. They then manned an inflatable and hoped for the best. The Enterprise was notified and made way in the direction of the refugees. It was sometime after dark when our ship got to the area; at that time search lights were trained to the port side and we manned the rails. Off in the distance one could hear the sound of a small motor and finally see the overcrowded dingy approaching. They were a bunch of happy folks!