[Narrator 1:] As the overloaded boat left the shore, the people on board shouted as if in one voice, "Farewell to Vietnam; farewell to our eternal beloved motherland." They had made the choice between their native land and freedom. One man on board, Tam, had to make great sacrifices on this journey that eventually brought him to Oklahoma in search of a new beginning in a free land.
[Narrator 2:]They came to Oklahoma from many nations. Newcomers to a new land, looking for better opportunities, a chance to begin again and what remains is their heritage. A rich heritage, that has become the Oklahoma image.
[Solemn music plays]
[Narrator 1:] Tam had served as a lieutenant in the Vietnamese Army stationed in Saigon at the time of the Communist take over of that city. Knowing he could not live under the new regime, he decided his only chance to raise his family in a free country would be to go to America. After much searching, Tam was able to find space aboard a fishing boat which would take them from Vietnam, not fully knowing their final destination. To obtain the gold that was required for their fare, Tam and his wife sold everything they owned. On the day the boat was to leave, Tam and his family with the gold he had been able to purchase, gathered with the others who had been promised space on the fishing boat. In the confusion and struggle of boarding the boat Tam and his family were all able to board with only the clothes on their backs and a little hidden food for the children.
[Narrator 1:] The boat was terribly overloaded and for hours it was a struggle to keep the water out and the boat in an upright position. Just as the boat was close to sinking, an American cargo ship came to their rescue. Those on the boat rushed to be pulled up by the Americans with only half of the panicked passengers making it onto the ship before it pulled away. Once on the ship, Tam was elated that they were among the lucky few who were able to board the ship. He was horrified when he finally realized that his wife and four of his children were still on the sinking fishing boat. Not knowing what was to become of the rest of his family, Tam and his three year old daughter were taken to American and after several months, settled in Oklahoma.
[Narrator 1:] Although he didn't feel that this was his new home without his family, Tam went about the work he'd been given and cared lovingly for his daughter, with heart and mind still with his family. Then new hope came to Tam that he might someday be reunited with his lost family. A letter arrived from Vietnam explaining that the small fishing boat his family was aboard had returned safely to Vietnam. His wife and children, though often hungry and needing support, were safe. With this new hope of being able to send them enough money for their passage to America and eventually to Oklahoma, Tam was working very hard not only at his work but also making a home for his reunited family.
[Narrator 1:] Although this is a story of one Vietnamese refugee family, it is truly a story of many. A story of extreme courage and determination to become loyal citizens of a new land with a new people.
[Narrator 2:] This program was produced by the Oklahoma Image Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and brought to you as a public service by this station. Oklahoma Image is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association.
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Part of the Oklahoma Image Statewide Humanities Project, promoting Newcomers to a New Land book series and the Oklahoma Image Project.
Copyright of this digital resource, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2008. For further information regarding use please consult the Rights and Permissions page, http://www.crossroads.odl.state.ok.us/shell/rights.php or contact the holding institution of the digital resource.
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