Date registered: May 2005
Vehicle: G320,G-Cabrio,Brabus G300GE
Location: Saigon, South Vietnam------New York City
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South Vietnam native tallies his blessings
Ask Dien Nguyen what happened in South Vietnam in 1975.
"We lost," he says without any hint of sadness or frustration.
The smile on his face reveals that Nguyen, 71, sees himself as a realist. He also is a man with an earned sense of humor.
At age 29, he finished medical school in France and returned to Hue serving in military hospitals during the Vietnam War. Trained as a cardiologist, Nguyen saw a lot of trauma in those years.
Some American veterans carried their trauma and the war home. Nguyen says vets were sad and ashamed of their actions while in South Vietnam.
Americans shouldn't feel that way, he says.
"No, you helped us to protect our freedom there," Nguyen says. "We called you for help. . . . We are grateful for that."
The media presented the situation "like America came to invade the country," he says. "That's totally wrong, wrong, wrong."
When the communists overran the South, Nguyen was arrested and put into a "re-education" camp.
Life in the camps was not like living in a five-star hotel, Nguyen says.
Joking - "Laughing at life is the best treatment for depression" - is part of his survival mechanism.
The other part is a practical outlook.
"You have to be realistic what you can do and what you cannot, and what you can expect and what you cannot expect."
He doesn't give many specifics about his eight years in jail.
He couldn't change the situation and didn't expect to live in America.
In 1983 after being held for eight years, Nguyen was released - but not allowed to practice medicine. He stayed home and helped raise his two sons while his wife continued to teach.
Then in 1991, he was told the U.S. government had made an agreement with Vietnam. Anyone who had spent three years or more in a communist camp could relocate to the United States.
Nguyen was excited when he arrived in Albuquerque with his wife and sons, but again his pragmatism took over. By then he was in his 50s. He hadn't practiced medicine for 20 years.
He didn't expect to be a doctor. His goal was to get a job, and it didn't much matter what. He would do whatever he could to take care of his family.
The first job he applied for was minimum-wage as a janitor. He missed being hired by one day.
His attitude: He could still be in Vietnam without a job, without the freedom to seek one.
By his standards, being in America was a blessing.
His wanted his sons to have a good education. Both graduated from college, one in business administration and the other in engineering.
His wife is a teacher's aide at an elementary school; he is a medical assistant and translator at the Southeast Heights Medical Clinic.
"When I wake up, that is my blessing day," he tells himself, "so do your best and enjoy it."
"The Communists will defeat us, not by
virtue of their strength, but because
of our weakness. They will win by default."
Ngo Dinh Diem