Vol. 13


Two Friends Meet Up After Thirty Years!

1971, Thu Cuong, South Vietnam;1 2001, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

My grandfather wasn’t with my mom when she was born. He was halfway across the world fighting in the Vietnam War. It was 1971. During his first week, my grandfather was in a patrol boat. One boat caught on fire, and in the confusion two boats ran into each other, and my grandfather fell into the water. A man name Bich2 pulled him out of the water. They became fast friends. Every night they sat by the water or played volleyball. The closer they became, the more my grandfather learned from Bich. My grandfather said that every time Bich talked about how Vietnam would have freedom, he had this fire in his eyes.

When my grandfather’s baby’s due date was near, he stayed off river patrol. The American radio communication had strict orders to find him when the word was received that the baby had been born.

On July 9, 1971, Bich came running up to my grandfather with tears of joy in his eyes, telling him he had a new daughter. A few minutes later a crowd of people came to tell my grandfather he had a new daughter. Bich had found out first, because he had set up his own radio. Bich had the honor of choosing a Vietnamese name for my mom. My grandfather and grandmother named her Joan, and “Loan” was the closest Bich could get in Vietnamese.

Six months later my grandfather’s yearlong tour of duty was over. He returned to the United States. My grandfather tried to keep up with Bich, but he stopped getting letters from him. My grandfather was afraid his friend had died.

More than twenty years later, Bich and his wife were on a cruise to China. They met a United States Navy officer. Bich told him about my grandfather. The officer found my grandfather on the Internet. Bich wrote a letter to him.

Two weeks later my grandfather flew out to California to see Bich. Then my grandfather invited Bich and his wife for my mom’s thirtieth birthday. On July 8 they arrived in North Carolina for her birthday.

My grandfather said, “I didn’t think I’d ever see him again.” Since then, Bich and my grandfather have had lots of visits.

Bich became a United States citizen in 1991. We take our freedom for granted, but Bich did not. As my grandfather has said, “Freedom is the greatest gift of all.”

Mary Neal Cheek; North Carolina, USA


1. In 1976, after having fought each other in a war, North Vietnam and South Vietnam were merged to form one country: Vietnam.

2. “Bich” rhymes with “pick.”



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