West Seattle Blog… | Vietnamese-American community commemorates grim anniversary and shows support for Ukrainian freedom struggle
By Tracy Records
West Seattle Blog Editor
What the Ukrainians are fighting is painfully familiar to people who were in South Vietnam almost half a century ago.
That’s why on Saturday Vietnamese cultural center The ceremony commemorating the fall of Saigon ended with a show of support for the Ukrainians.
47 years ago, on Saturday – April 30, 1975 – the capital of South Vietnam was captured, at the end of a war that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, both Vietnamese and those who fought for them, including Americans. They were commemorated and honored with a wreath laying at Saturday’s ceremony.
Deputy Mayor of Seattle Kendee Yamaguchi joined in the wreath laying with Dr. Dat P. Giapwho spoke of those “who gave their lives for our freedom” – mentioning more than 48,000 Americans as well as people from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea, and the more than 600,000 Vietnamese who died fighting, as well as hundreds of thousands more who “perished on their journey to freedom”.
For those who did, he said, “America is a paradise…not because of its economic power, but because of its compassion for immigrants and refugees.” He urged those present not to take freedom for granted and to pray for those fighting for freedom in Ukraine. “God bless America, our America,” he concluded.
Among those present were many South Vietnamese military veterans, wearing the uniforms in which they fought. Towards the start of the ceremony, they saluted as the flag of South Vietnam was raised, after the American flag:
Dignitaries in attendance included two people who made history – our state’s first Vietnamese-American state senator, Joe Nguyen of West Seattle, son of refugees:
Senator Nguyen, in our photo with the director of the Vietnamese Cultural Center Lee Bui, called April 30 “a day that is etched in our memories”. It is also part of a banner for the center’s foundation:
Other dignitaries included the first Vietnamese-American member of the Washington State House, Rep. Mon-Linh Thai:
Rep. Thai (pictured above with a member of the city council Sarah Nelson) came to the United States as a refugee when he was 15 years old. Another refugee among the dignitaries, mohamed hamdicity director of immigrant and refugee affairs and elected commissioner of the Port of Seattle, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia when she was 3 years old. She told those gathered that she shared their “commitment to freedom”.
The most impassioned words are those of another Vietnamese-American who arrived as a refugee, Michelle Le of Seattle Vietnamese Community.
“We must learn from history – we cannot forget it or erase it,” she implored. “Forgetting the past is not the solution.” And she, too, referred to Russia’s war against Ukraine as “a reminder of what we’ve been through…To lose freedom is to lose everything. … Always defend your country and your humanity.
The Vietnamese Cultural Center is located at 2236 SW Orchard and is open to the public from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.