30/04/1975, the day I lost my country, my identity as a soldier, and was torn between my own safety and my family.
I was Lieutenant Colonel working at J6 Joint General Staff (Signal Communications) – Headquarters.
I applied for family evacuation, reserved for high-ranking officers through the American Advisory Group.
The family included my wife’s two younger sisters. The list was approved and despatched on 27/04. Later, my wife’s sisters refused to evacuate.
When it was time for evacuation, I answered the phone and asked my wife to get ready to be picked up. She just kept silent then declined. She was discouraged by the thought of living in a foreign country by herself with five children if I failed to reunite with them after the war. My 13-year-old eldest daughter is hiMe. My youngest sons were just one and two-year-olds then.
My wife told me to flee at the last minute of the war, then come back to the country a few years later.
There was a Jeep sent to pick my family up on 29/04 but no one left.
My Colonel colleague – also my neighbour – deserted and fled with his family on 25/04.
I was at work all day on 29/04. In the evening, my friend told me that we could go to the Navy Headquarters to board a ship but I could not think of leaving. My friend left the next morning.
Early in the morning of 30/04, there was still time for me to walk from Headquarters to the airport next door and fly out, but I couldn’t do it.
I worked until the last minute on that day because of my honour and duty to serve the country as a high-ranking officer.
The Communists shelled mortars to my office but I luckily escaped death. Later, the Communists detained me and others in the garage, searched our pockets and seized anything they wanted (money, watches…). They released us the next day.
On 30/04/1975, some officers committed suicide by shooting themselves while some went into hiding and tried to escape by boat months afterwards.
I knew the Communists could kill me. My fear of death was buried deep down underneath the thin hope that they’d keep me as prisoner for a while so I could be with my family later on.
I thought that if I’d left, I’d never have seen my family again. Family reunions were impossible with China-Taiwan, North-South Korea, East-West Germany.
I spent 10 years in jail. I witnessed many officers died in the Communist prison from malnutrition, diseases, hard labour and failed escapes. I too suffered in jail.
After my release in Vietnam, hiMe often cried in her nightmares in Australia that the Communists took me to prison again.
When my country was writhing in pain and fallen.
I couldn’t run,
When future hadn’t pledged family reunion,
I couldn’t quit,
And hate to split.
Each day in jail, physically weaken,
I lived with hope,
And tried to cope.