Magazine, The Immigrant Experience, CLASP, By Kathy Tran
The narrative surrounding the Vietnam War rarely shines a light on the impacts of war and resettlement on Vietnam’s women. Countless movies and books detail the experiences of men fighting in the Vietnam War, but rarely do we get to hear from Vietnamese women, like my mother, who lived through the war, resettling in the United States years after it ended. Through her reflections of war, motherhood, and struggles to navigate a new life in the United States, her story can offer some insights into how we should approach policy advocacy.
My mom’s story starts with her upbringing in Vietnam. She was raised by a family of strong Vietnamese women who had to overcome barriers of war and poverty. Growing up, my mother and her family had only known years and generations of colonial rule and war. Despite growing up during the war and living in poverty, the values of hard work and education were instilled in my mother.
Living through a civil war between North and South Vietnam (1960-1975), my grandmother raised my mom on her own. My mom grew up during the Vietnam War of 1963 to 1975. While my father served as a lieutenant in the South Vietnamese military during the war, my mom ran her family’s butcher business. The war and all the suffering that came with it finally ended in 1975. Eighteen years later in 1993, my parents immigrated to this country through the United States’ Humanitarian Operation (HO) program, which sponsored former reeducation camp prisoners seeking to resettle in this country. It was a difficult decision, but my parents left behind everything they knew in order to begin a new life in the United States.
Little did they realize that leaving behind that chapter of hardship and war would lead them to a new chapter of struggles navigating life here. They came with absolutely no money or belongings in the hope of making a better future for their kids. This new chapter in my mom’s life would also bring new hardships of economic insecurity.