I have met many decorated heroes. However, there are more that have never gotten a medal. This is their story.
Harry was a young sailor stationed with the South Vietnamese Navy at Cam Ranh Bay. It is early April 1975. For the last month, he had been ferrying South Vietnamese Army and civilian refugees from along the northern areas surrounding Saigon. Harry relates “many times we had just left with a load of troops when the NVA began firing at us”.
In the early morning hours of 30 April 1975 Harry’s commander ordered his ship to head out to sea. Harry’s ship was not an ocean going vessel, and its draft was too deep for some of the small channels they would need to navigate before reaching the ocean. It was also full of refugees. An hour before daylight the ship hit a large mud bank in the middle of the channel. If the sun came up before the ship reached the bay they would be an easy target for the NVA. Working feverishly the crew was able to free the ship and it made it out into the bay.
For the next three days, Harry’s ship followed alongside U.S. Navy ships. There were few supplies and no facilities for such a large number of people. Finally, the were taken aboard a U.S. Navy ship and taken to the Philippines. It was here he met a refugee and they were married.
Harry was able to raise enough money to immigrate to the United States. Landing first in Seattle, and then taking a job in a casino in New Jersey. Harry saved his money and managed to get both his and his wife’s family passage to the U.S. Harry used what savings he had to buy a gas station in Tampa, Florida. Today Harry and Nancy have two son’s that are enrolled in college and they are living the American Dream.
Sam, had already been enlisted in the South Vietnamese Air Force for 2 years when the NVA launched an offensive in 1972. Sam realized that the withdrawal of the US from South Vietnam it would not be long before the country fell. He managed to move his family to the Philippines in mid-1974.
In August of 1974, Richard Nixon had been forced to resign and Gerald Ford was now the President. The North Vietnamese tested the new President’s resolve by attacking Phuoc Long province. This was a direct violation of the Paris Peace Treaty. President Ford protested, but did not offer any military support to the South.
Sam also found himself in Saigon in April of 1975. Stationed at Ton Son Nhut Airbase Sam decided it was time for him to leave the country. On 29 April as the final USAF C-3 transports were leaving, Sam moved to the end of the runway and waited for a C-3 with an open door to line up for takeoff.
Finally, as one C-3 made the turn onto the runway, the door opened and a U.S. Airman waved him to jump in. Sam landed in Japan and was eventually reunited with his wife and family in the Philippines. Sam immigrated to the United States by way of Texas. Today he owns a seafood market in Tampa.
Harry and Sam had fought for their country and continued up until it was obvious that their country was doomed. They managed to save others, their family and themselves and are productive citizens of the United States.