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Ex-Viet GI Brings Back 'Very Happy' Daughter, 15

October 13, 1987|Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand — Former U.S. Army medic Barry Huntoon returned from Vietnam with a 15-year-old daughter he had never met, and said today that she was "very, very happy" to leave for a new life in the United States.

Huntoon returned to Bangkok from Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City on Monday with Tran Thi Tuyet Mai, whom he fathered during the Vietnam War but saw for the first time in Life magazine two years ago.

The 38-year-old sales representative from Paradise, Calif., said the girl, poor and illiterate, had been peddling peanuts to Soviet tourists on the beaches of Vung Tau, near Ho Chi Minh City.

"She was very, very happy," on the flight to Bangkok, a euphoric Huntoon said.

He said the girl was taking her first plane ride, and remained glued to her seat, afraid to watch her homeland fade in the distance.

While Mai is a U.S. citizen, Huntoon said she must spend some time in a refugee center in Bangkok for emigration formalities before leaving for the United States.

Huntoon left behind his Vietnamese girlfriend, nine months pregnant with Mai, upon completing a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1972. They didn't have the papers needed to get married and efforts to bring her to the United States failed, he said.

They lost all contact since.

Then, Huntoon was looking at photographs of Amerasians in the August, 1985, issue of Life when a girl bearing an uncanny resemblance to him and his old girlfriend, "just jumped out at me."

A friend who was a relief worker in a Vietnamese boat refugee camp in the Philippines found a woman who recognized the girl and agreed to ask relatives back home to search for her.

Huntoon said Mai will live with him and his wife. He said either he or a church group will sponsor resettlement of Mai's mother, who is expected to leave Vietnam later.

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