Vietnamese American Military Banquet
Hosted by the Vietnamese American Uniformed Services Association (VAUSA)
27 September 2014
Remarks by Colonel Tuan T. Ton, U.S. Army
Thank you Anh Ross for the warm introduction.
Major General and Mrs. Hugo, Brigadier General and Mrs. Khôi, Brigadier General and Mrs. Tất
Lieutenant Colonel Ross Nguyễn, President of the VAUSA (formerly known as VAAFA), and his lovely wife Dr. Tearrah
Fellow American military members
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
Let me begin by saying thank you to LTC Ross and those who spent days organizing this wonderful and impressive event. You have turned a vision of bringing people together into a reality, where people eagerly came together. I can easily attest its success by the evidence of all 450 seats are taken before me. Thank you so much Anh Ross for your vision and leadership and I truly appreciate the hard work of everyone involved.
This evening I see friends and guests coming from across America and as far as Hawaii and Alaska. I see parents, students, community leaders, businessmen and women, professors, hardworking families with children, friends of the Vietnamese American community, supporters of VAAFA, veterans of the former Republic of Vietnam, and of course, the overwhelming presence of our American military members.
Thu-Hà and I are so delighted to return to Virginia and to share this meaningful event with all of you. I am truly honored to be here and to have the opportunity to speak to a dynamic, diverse, and accomplished group of audience.
I am so touched by the ceremony we just had, very respectable in a warm atmosphere. It seems to me that everyone have dressed up for this event in their best suit, best dress and their good-looking uniforms, but I must admit to you that the most beautiful thing I am seeing in you tonight, are your smiles filled with enthusiasm.
We are here tonight…together! This is our night…for celebrating! To honor our past, recognize our present, and promote our future. With that, I would like to share with you a few of my perspectives about our shared value of being Vietnamese Americans and our blessed American journey, as we continue to grow together and succeed in the future.
For most of us, we grew up in a war-torn country, going through a period of our lives surviving the horrible experiences with painful memories. Many families were separated and at the end they were only reunited by fate. We lived without hope. Tomorrow was simply another hopeless yesterday. Our spirits felt broken as our entire existence was threatened.
Desperately, we left our place of birth, seeking to reach a new destiny. We were willing to face the many unknowns ahead of us and to embrace anything that did not resemble what we had left behind. Our shared history has left us with the physical and emotional wounds deep within ourselves. At times, those wounds have become the obstacles that keep us from moving forward.
I am not here trying to repaint a picture of sorrow or resentment. I am asking you to recognize the various circumstances that each of us have been through. Some of us might have overcome these sufferings easier than others. But one thing we need to be certain of is that none of the lingering pain of our wounds gets deposited into the hearts of our younger generations.
This reminds me of last week when I went with my friend and his 11-years-old son, named Johnny, to a playground just around the corner from their house. As I was having so much fun playing with Johnny and others on the swing complex, I noticed there was a boy sitting alone on a bench not too far away. I turned and asked: “Johnny, do you know that boy? Why don’t you walk over there and ask him to join us?” Johnny stared at me: “Mr. Ton!!! Don’t you know that is Davis?” Johnny asked as though I have been living in his neighborhood for a long time. He went on explaining that Davis’s father and some of the fathers in the neighborhood had a big argument a few years ago. From that day on, Davis’s father would not allow his son to play on the swings whenever those kids or their parents were on the playground. I thought about what Johnny said for a minute and asked myself, “If that boy Davis was my son, would I want to see him sitting alone on the sideline of his own neighborhood’s playground?”
We inspire each other to learn our heritage and to understand the history of our roots, but we should not intensify the emotional struggle or encourage hatred.
Our compassion is our strength, the cross-cultural experiences between generational differences is our bond, and those darkness days in the early part of our life defined our greatest will. So, let us treasure that uncompromised strength, the exclusive bond between our generations, and to hold on to that determination for excellence. These are the qualities of our traits which made us stand strong and proud together on our American journey.
All in all, let us not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifices along the way and let us tonight, honor those who have sacrificed their entire adult life for protecting and guiding us every step of the way.
We are blessed, tonight and right here, with the presence of our parents, grandparents, guardians, and những người cựu Chiến sĩ Quân Lực Việt Nam Cộng Hòa (veterans of the former Republic of Vietnam). We have learned so much from their courage and the values of their humanity. They are our heroes and we are forever grateful to them!
May I ask those of you who are Vietnamese Americans in U.S. military uniform to do something special with me? Please stand up and walk to our heroes, to give them a hug or handshake and say thank you.
While we cherish the unique characteristic of our heritage, we must remember that this great nation values hard work and compassion. Let us be humble with our successes and the cross-cultural experiences, and share the rewards of our achievement with others. This is who we are. This is what America is all about.
Indeed, we should never stop at just being an American, for the many opportunities that this country has given us, for each one of us so much, that none of us can ever repay in full. Therefore, even with a small act of service, in whatever way we can, to our local community or to our nation…together, we all can make a difference.
So whether you were born in Vietnam, in America, or elsewhere, or whatever the level of contribution you have made, you are now part of this American national team. A team that you can look upon and say with pride: “I am an American!”
Yesterday, I had the privilege to meet a young man who came to the United States only 2 years and three days ago. Today, he is a proud American citizen, serving in the United States Army National Guard as a Private First Class (PFC) while attending at the University of South Alabama as a 2nd year ROTC cadet. It is quite an accomplishment. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce PFC Đăng Nguyễn, sitting at Table 31.
Many of us know that in order for tiny seeds to grow, they need to be planted under good soil, and even in total darkness, with the right amount of water and fertilizer, those seeds grow and grow, to reach the sunlight above.
We were like those tiny seeds and today we have bloomed to become beautiful flowers, fruit trees, and big trees in the forest. We will not stop there. We will continue to deepen our roots in America’s soil. Today, the contribution of Vietnamese Americans is undoubtedly spreading across every sector of this society – in the field of business, education, engineering, government services, information technology, law, medicine, science, technical, and many more, and of course, in the military service.
Yes, we have risen above the soil. Let us continue to turn each opportunity into successful stories. We are “những hạt giống đã vươn mình theo ánh sáng của tự do” (the seeds that have risen through the soil reaching for the light of freedom).
I am proud of you! I am proud to be with you! May the days ahead continue to bless you, your family and your future endeavors. Thank you all very much.