From the jungles of South Vietnam to the top tier of the US Military

The cost of freedom is an infinite calculation.   It has been 38 years since I left Vietnam in the hopes to find freedom.  On December 17th, 1974, I was born in the city of Saigon, Vietnam. During my infant years, my family and I struggled and fought to survive from the brutalities of the North Vietnamese as Saigon failed to the communist regime.  The fall of Saigon in 1975 had a huge impact on my family.

The North Vietnamese savagely murdered and imprisoned many of my family members in pursuit of their objective to rid the South of everyone who had been in any position of political power.  My grandfather told my mother, “My two grandsons will never grow up to be communists.” My grandfather sacrificed his life savings to ensure that my family and I would secure a place on a boat to escape Vietnam – we became “boat people” in pursuit of freedom.

It was 1979 and my family left our home on a boat over-crowded with other fleeing refugees.  The atmosphere was tense and conditions were scorching hot, humid and extremely uncomfortable. My family and I were terrified for the unknown. The rough waters of Southern Asia claimed many lives, and without proper navigation, there was a great risk of any of the many refugee boats ending up lost. 

Following a week at sea, our engine boat broke down in the middle of nowhere.  We were all out of food and water and people were beginning to panic.  Our boat drifted to the shores of Malaysia and coastal bandits were shooting us at.  Malaysian security forced us to remain on the boat with no assistance, towing our broken boat back into the ocean for us to die.  Over many weeks, our boat drifted further and further out into the middle of nowhere.  My mother and brother concluded that we would not survive and accepted that our fate was in the hands of God, assuming we would all depart this life. 

Then a miracle transpired; somehow our boat drifted into a shipping lane and we were rescued by a Russian ship.  The Russians towed us to Indonesia where my family and I resided in a refugee camp for a year.  My Uncle and Aunt who lived in the U.S sponsored my family, which allowed us to be able to come to the United States to start a new life.

My family settled in a little military town in Fayetteville, NC, where I grew up.  We began our new lives living with my Aunt who was married to an American Special Forces officer.   Growing up in a rural southern town in the 80’s was extremely complicated for me and my brother.   We faced not only being strangers in a strange land, but racism on a daily basis; I was learning that life would never be fair or easy. 

Eventually, my mother remarried. My stepfather was an amazing a man, an American Special Forces soldier.  He taught me many things and, at a very young age, I knew I was destined to follow in his footsteps.  When I was 8 years old, I remember him packing for an upcoming mission to Panama.  I wanted to go with him.  He told me that one day I would take a test and if I passed, I would be welcome into the brotherhood.  I could not then comprehend what that really meant, but his words would stay with me.   

I graduated High School on a sunny day in June of 1993 - the very next day I was at Fort Benning, GA for Basic Training.    From thereon I dedicated my life to become something great.  In my search for excellence I became a Special Forces Operator.

Throughout my 22 years within Special Operations, I have climbed my way through the different Tier Units. I made many friends and lost a few along the way.  I have fought the war through multiple combatant theaters, from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the drug wars of South America.  I have witnessed the fall of Middle East terrorist strong holds and savage acts in African Saharan deserts.  I have lived and experienced the path that my grandfather and my stepfather had revealed to me.  I accepted some of the toughest assignments and faced them without fear.  I did this because I believed I should have died a long time ago, when death was facing me and my family every day, not only in Vietnam but while drifting in the ocean where all hope was lost.

Now, as I reflect on my life, I realize I was chosen to live to serve a higher cause, to serve my country in war.  I was born of war and trained by my stepfather from childhood.   As I walked the path laid before me, I studied Bushido- “The Way.”  But the way has made me into a drifter, master-less…into a Ronin. 

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