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NAVELSG sailor shares personal experiences during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage celebration.

During an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage celebration held at Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) in May, Chief Logistics Specialist Huy Tran shared the story of his second attempt to escape Vietnam. "We slept on the floor and our ankles were locked in chains," he said.

The event included traditional Asian American music, food, and a craft display by NAVELSG Diversity Committee. Tran a native of Vietnam, born just before the end of the war, came to America during the refugee movement of the 1980s known as The Boat People'.

"When I left I thought it was a day trip or vacation of some sort," said Tran. "My dad took myself and my brother and said we were going to go on a fishing trip."

Between 1978 and 1990 more than 2 million Vietnamese escaped the clutches of North Vietnamese Communists, fearing potential retribution after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Many who either worked for the South Vietnamese government or simply wanted to escape the confinement of a totalitarian regime opted to tempt their fate on the open ocean. The Australian Immigration Ministry estimates anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 perished on the open waters due to piracy, starvation or drowning.

During his second attempt to leave South Vietnam, Tran, his father, and brother were caught and imprisoned.

"I still remember that day we were in prison," said Tran, "I was like 'wow this is not fun' and my mom had to bail us out."

After being bailed out of prison by his mother, Tran, his father, and one brother eventually made another attempt, arriving in the United States in 1986. His mother and youngest brother made a separate but unsuccessful attempt. Found by a freighter while at sea, their boat capsized during rescue operations. It was an especially emotional moment during the presentation for Chief Tran, as he shared photos of his brothers and mother, struggling to keep his painful memories contained during the presentation.

"My brother and mother didn't make it," said Tran, "When I was growing up my mother wasn't there; it was hard."

In 1994, after settling in Arizona, Chief Tran joined the Navy and has never looked back, sharing that the highlight of his career has been his time spent with the Navy's Riverine squadrons.

"It was kind of weird that I was with the Riverine force and during Vietnam we had a Riverine force," said Tran, "It was great training and a lot of fun."

As the celebration came to a close, many of NAVELSG's Sailors were reflective about Chief Tran's story and the stories of others that have been shared in the past year during diversity celebrations.

"We have a lot of Sailors here from different backgrounds," said Personnel Specialist 1st Class Florrie Lambert, "Most of us can't imagine the struggles they went through that led them to be in today's Navy."

Hearing these stories, the Sailors of NAVELSG realize how fortunate many of them are to have grown up with the freedoms they have in the United States.

"One thing I notice was how often he used the word escape," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Sean Falahchay, "it really shocks you what some of our shipmates have gone through."

NAVELSG is home ported in Williamsburg, Virginia, with an active battalion located at Cheatham Annex and forward-deployed detachments and Reserve battalions located across the U.S. NAVELSG provides Sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the Fleet's surface and air-handling mission. More than 100 Sailors and civilians work hand-in-hand with the Fleet and are dedicated to ensuring training is current and well executed on behalf of 3,500 active duty and Reserve Sailors in the administration, logistics and training of their active and Reserve components.
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Title Annotation:Around the Field & Fleet
Author:Kessler, Edward
Publication:Navy Supply Corps Newsletter
Geographic Code:9VIET
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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