April 30th 1975, those of you over 50 will probably remember the videos that were playing on all the national news channels. A helicopter was lifting off the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon. People were hanging on to the chopper skids; some were falling back to the roof as the helicopter departed to one of the waiting ships. On board ship, the American soldiers were pushing all sorts of ordinance overboard, to make room for the passengers. Jeeps, armored vehicles, and helicopters were all being deep-sixed, in what was one of the most chaotic exoduses in American history. The final words from the CIA to Washington on that April morning were “It has been a long hard fight and we have lost. Those who fail to learn from history are forced to repeat it. Let us hope that we have learned our lesson.”
Two of the passengers on board that ship coming to America, were 24 year old Long and his wife Anh Luu. They were of “the lucky few that fled.” They are the parents of Janette Luu who co-anchors WPTA 21 Alive News with Eric Olson. Janette graduated from Snyder High School and then from the University of Michigan. She was born in Big Spring, Texas, but was raised in Fort Wayne.
Her parents were both born in Vietnam. They were among the thousands of refugees that immigrated to the United States at the close of the Vietnam War. Long and Anh both remember the tremendous amount of confusion during the final days. Long could not return to his family and Anh was searching everywhere for her family but to no avail, but they found each other just in time to flee. When they arrived in this country, they had to start their lives over again. Long trained with the U. S. Air Force base in Big Spring, TX. Long worked for $2 an hour, with no overtime pay. He worked for awhile on the Essex assembly line and then learned the ceramic tile business. They came to Fort Wayne, hoping to find better work. Long worked part time at McDonalds and now works for Pizza Hut Corporate.
Long has many negative memories of his exodus from Vietnam, and those memories are what gives him a greater appreciation for the freedoms he now enjoys, the freedom to be who and what he wants.