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A Tale of Redemption

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How many people in your office or classroom do you really know?  I mean beyond the normal work or classroom interaction?  I am lucky in that I get to work with a lot of creative, intelligent, and caring People, but to be honest, with most of them, I don’t know their personal disasters or triumphs.  I am sure they all have both some low moments and their sweet tastes of success, just as I do.  But, sometimes our personal stories remain locked inside of us.

Like anyone my age, the Vietnam War was a seminal event for a generation, and our national scars and wounds are just now beginning to heal.  I remember those images of desperate refugees climbing up to the helicopter pad at the US Embassy in Saigon.  Equally haunting were the images of the “baby lift.”  At the time, I couldn’t imagine what those left behind must be thinking.

Life has funny ways of intersecting when and where you least expect it.  When I moved into the Communications Department, I began working with Kim Delevett on several projects for the blog.  Some of those posts involve Kim’s story of returning to Viet Nam (along with a newspaper article by Kim's husband, Peter) as an adult to search for her family.  During the telling of those stories, I learned more of Kim’s life story and of the incredible love of her birth mother as Saigon was crumbling.  In spite of reading those stories, much remained unsaid until now.

Early this year, Kim was asked to be part of a Vietnamese American oral history project for the Digital Clubhouse Network, and she worked with a college student to rpoduce the video; Kim’s story is now available on a YouTube video.  The good folks at the Digital Clubhouse Network provided the technical assistance for the video.  Warning, don’t watch this without keeping a box of tissues close at hand.  I think the factor that makes the video so moving is that you hear Kim's voice telling her story.

Kim’s search for her past and her own history continues.  In the video, you will learn about Jim Smith, and thanks to the video, Kim is getting closer to being reunited with Jim.

At a recent event, Kim met Sachi Koto, formerly of CNN.  She was so intrigued by Kim’s story, that she launched a search for Jim Smith in her online newsletter. Remaining hopeful that the newsletter and this post will bear fruit,  Kim tells me:  “Southwest will not only play a part in spreading the word, but when I do find Jim, I bet Southwest will fly us there!”  I have a big hunch that Kim will be successful.

15 Comments
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With tears streaming down my face I type this message... To Kim, to Uncle Sam, to Lam and all the family you left behind and those who passed before today--you are each honorable in both your adopted country and your birth country! I am a child of the Viet Nam years, although my journey is totally different from what you described. I was born in the United States and remain today surrounded by loved ones and enjoy both my birth parents. I have never experienced the pain of loss, personal fear for survival nor separation from everything familar as you described. My husband was in the service during the Viet Nam War and has shared recollections of that time, although nothing touched me as deeply as reading your account touched me today. I hope life holds only wonderful experiences for you forever forward. AMEN.
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Wow! Incredible story! Have you, by any chance, seen “Daughter From Danang?” It’s a documentary. I think you might like it.
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Brian ~ Words cannot express how grateful my family is for your special post. Thank you so very much for wanting to share my story and video with our Internal and External family too. Last month, I met a Rochester Institute of Technology student named William Xu at the OCA National Convention in San Francisco. William followed up to tell me that he currently serves as the national president of Pi Delta Psi, the second-largest Asian American fraternity in the country and the only one with an emphasis on culture. He mentioned that the Rochester community has a large number of adopted Korean Americans, and he wants to create a fund within the fraternity’s national treasury that will pay for one or more students to return to their homeland to find their roots. He asked me to advise him on what students might need to prepare and what they might experience through the rediscovery process. William shared: "I finally got around to watching the video... It was very touching and something I think should be shared with not only Vietnamese Americans but many Asian Americans who have in one way or another lost touch with their heritage and culture." I hope that my broader message of always remembering where you come from; embracing your heritage; and never being ashamed of who you are resonates not only with Asian Americans, but with everyone who watches the video. As the Beatles once sang, “with a little help from my friends” I know that we will find Mr. Smith and his family. We are now one step closer to making my dream come true – thank you from the bottom of my heart, Brian! LUV, Kim Phuong
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I also want to thank Digital Clubhouse Network who helped produce the video with the San Jose State student Hoanganh Lam!
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Dear Anonymous: Your message brought tears to my eyes! My story is among thousands of immigrant stories; I was blessed that Digital Clubhouse Network wanted to share mine with you. One day soon, I hope to write another blog about my preparation and visit with Mr. Smith and family. THANK YOU so very much for sharing your heartfelt words! ;) Kim Hi John~ I have seen "Daughter From Danang." I know the journalist who helped Heidi reunite with her family. Even though I had a different "homecoming," it was an incredibly moving documentary that hit home for me as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. ;)Kim
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Kim, what a touching video. The video brought tears to my eyes--you have such a compelling history. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart with us!
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Dear Kim, I am glad that I had a chance to hear your story from you before watching your beautiful movie. It is so inspiring on so many levels. I shared my story with you about my dear high school boyfriend who went off to war and struggled on so many levels for so long. I still have a heavy heart for all he went through. But when I watch your story, I can say that he was a part of something so much bigger than he ever knew. There is no beauty in war.......but there is beauty in hearts of people who reach out to make something beautiful out of the ashes. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. You are going to give courage and hope to many........and I feel that someday Jim Smith is going to have one of the happiest days of his life. Bless you on journey for answers......and in your endeavor to inspire others. Sincerely, Linda Laurie
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Thank you for sharing story..Best of luck of finding James. Congratulation to find your root and be able to pass on to your son.Have you been practicing your Vietnamese :) Take care, anhtuan
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Thanks Katie for taking the time to watch the video and for your post! I hope my video encourages others to share their stories, so we can all heal together. Luv, Kim Linda, I appreciated our conversation yesterday and thank you for sharing a piece of your heart with me as well. You are an inspiration to me, and I appreciate all that you do for ALL of our veterans. Hugs, Kim Hi Anh Tuan~ You make me laugh! My hubby and I have taken Vietnamese lessons, but outside of menu items and the numbers 1-10, we know as much as my one-year-old. I'm hoping that once he's a little older, he can teach us! Thanks for your note. 😉 Kim
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Kim, Wow. Just wow. Of course, I got a download on Blair's Vietnamese trip with you to see your family (right in the middle of the SARS epidemic--timing is everything, hun!), but your story is powerful, moving, and inspiring. Your journey has been incredible, and your journeys have been profound. Thanks so much for sharing with us! We both lost our mothers too early. I, too, am certain that they're both looking out us each and every day. My mother loved Pho; if your mom liked Chicken Fried Steak, I think we have the makings for a fantastic friendship in Heaven! Thank you so much for sharing this with the Blogosophere. You just made my whole weekend! Bill
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Bill~ I'm chuckling right now! Who doesn't like chicken fried steak?! I'm sure our moms our enjoying the endless buffet of pho and chicken fried steak right now! Thank you for sharing all of your laugh-out-loud and heartbreaking stories through the blog too. Hope to see you soon, maybe we can have a heavenly lunch at HDQ; I'll bring the pho! 😉 Kim
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Kim, Thank you for sharing your touching story here and to our APALI class in the summer! As a Vietnamese-American born here, I can relate to finding out about "the other half" of my life. I learned more about myself and importantly, my parents and heritage from visiting Viet Nam than I thought possible. Thank you again for your inspirational story and we look forward to seeing you again at APALI/De Anza! Jim Nguyen Assistant Director, APALI
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Hi Kim, As I've said before, your experiences are not that far off from many young Asian Americans. Just because many of us were brought up by our birth parents, doesn't mean we don't find our selves conflicted over values and identity. Many of us grew up with a general idea of what being Asian meant, as well as what being American meant, but finding our own place in the middle is perhaps not as easy as just putting the two words together. We definitely need more role models like you, to look up to, to identify with. So please, don't stop reaching out to our communities and doing the great stuff you do. Respectfully, William Xu National Executive President Pi Delta Psi Fraternity
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Hi Jim~ Thanks for posting your message. I was thoroughly impressed by the student presentations and was moved by their candid responses about identity. I'm already looking foward to meeting next year's students! I can relate - everytime I visit Vietnam, I learn so much about myself and our motherland. I can't wait to go back to visit my extended family, but we have to wait a few more years until my little one can tolerate a 15 hour flight! Have a terrific weekend and hope to see you soon! Kim
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Hi William~ You're certainly not alone in your feelings. I look forward to talking about your program for adopted Korean Americans. You are a role model as well, thank you for your passion for helping others! ~Kim