For Veteran’s Day, 2008: Hoang Nguyen, 37, knew as a kid that he would join the U.S. military. â€œI wanted to repay back the United States for helping my family after the fall of Saigon,â€ he says.
He remembers the chaos of the end of the Vietnam war in the late â€˜70s. â€œWe took a boat from Vietnam to Guam, then flew to the U.S. with the help of American troops,â€ he says. â€œThe military had a big impact on me at a young age.â€
Thatâ€™s a common feeling among younger Asian Americans, he says, if they came out of the Vietnam War experience.
Hoang attended the Air Force Academy, earned a Bachelors of Arts & Science, and went into pilots training at 22. â€œMy parents were initially slightly cautiousâ€ about his decision to join the military, he says. â€œMy father did not want me to go through the rough times he went through. But my mother was elated.â€ (He’s shown above, with his mother, Hanh Ha, at the ceremony when he was promoted to the rank of Major.)
Luckily, the closest he got to combat duty was conducting fly-overs in the Middle East between the two Iraq wars. He left the Air Force in 2000 (the official word is â€œseparatedâ€) and joined American Airlines.
After 9/11, he said, his patriotism led him to join the reserves. Heâ€™s now a full-time active guard reservist and reached the rank of Major in 2005.
AAPIs fighting for America
When the subject of Asians fighting in the U.S. military comes up, the first thought is the Japanese American 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Many of those soldiers enlisted even though their families were incarcerated in American concentration camps. Continue reading