From Vietnam to Camp Pendleton to Orange County

May 05, 1985

My family came to the United States in April of 1975. We left Camp Pendleton late in October of the same year. Our group of 128 was the very last of the refugees to leave the Marine base. The reason it took so long to get sponsors was because our families all came from Vung Tau in Vietnam and all of us were fishermen. Most of us could not speak English, and many of our parents were uneducated and could not read or write in their own language.

It was hard to find anyone to sponsor us, but thanks to CROSS, the Christian Redevelopment Organization for Social Services, we finally left the Marine base for our new homes in Orange County.

I would like to take this chance to thank Bishop William R. Johnson for doing such a good job in getting us sponsors and support from so many church groups. My people can't say enough for all the nice things he did for us. He and Elizabeth Kirsnis, the director of the U.S. Catholic Conference, were tremendous in seeing that the Vietnamese got homes almost immediately after our release from Camp Pendleton.

I have been supporting myself since I was 17 years old. My father, uncles and relatives had jobs within two weeks after leaving Camp Pendleton. We tried to keep off welfare; the only ones who had to get welfare help right away were three widows and their families, but we all helped them out when we went to work.

I also would like to thank the Marines who worked so hard in setting up the tent cities at Camp Pendleton.

Our Vung Tau group of refugees would like especially to thank the CROSS director, Vic Opalek, who was there in the camp in early April of 1975.

He quit his job for four months to work, at his own expense, to sponsor and take care of us during the really rough months after we left Camp Pendleton.

Mr. Vic has stayed with us, provided us with emergency housing, clothes, furniture and other things we needed--this all at his own expense and with the help of his fellow employees at Disneyland who saw to it that we got the emergency requirements, bedding and even transportation when we really needed it. We thank them very, very much.

We can't forget Mary Jones and her community service workers at Disneyland, where the employees have done so much to help us. They still are helping us 10 years later. Thank you very, very much and may God bless all of you wonderful Americans.



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