I thought this letter from Hang Nguyen Hernandez was important to communicate to all of our members, particularly our Vietnam Veterans. The "Red Poppy" is significant because of it's association with Memorial Day, which is when we met Hang. It is also is a symbol of remembrance and hope. The "White Lotus" symbolizes rebirth and spiritual enlightenment. About a dozen of us were fortunate to hear her message, first hand, at breakfast, prior to the Memorial Day Ceremony in Morrison. It was so moving, we asked Hang if she would document it and allow us to share it with our members. Following is her incredible story. She ends by imparting her gratitude for the brave men and women who served and sacrificed so much during the Vietnam War.
"Out of the ashes of the Red Poppies, A White Lotus Bloomed"
"It is Gods promise to make ALL things new.” ~ Hang Nguyen Hernandez Memorial Day 2021, Morrison Colorado. We gathered on this day to honor fallen soldiers. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to join a group of Veterans at their breakfast table. Instantly I was greeted with smiling faces, handshakes, open receiving spirits. I enjoyed and took in the moment as much as possible, the conversations, laughter, stories of past and the here and now. Everyone has a story to tell. I had tried to write mine over the years, but was unable to due to the floods of emotions that would fail me. Because of the Veterans, who asked me to share my story, I have been able to put pen to paper. My mother passed when I was a little girl. I recall the Buddhist temple and the cemetery where she was laid to rest. I have siblings, an older brother who was in the military, both an older sister and younger sister. After my mother passed, we were separated into different households; although, we would see each other from time to time. I lived in row housing in the red light district, on top sat our living quarters, below was the bar. We knew when the bar opened and the banging music starts we were not allowed to come down. I recall a cemetery next to the building. I am not sure if this is considered district 3, but could possibly be according to a source. I have many wonderful memories of playing near Turtle Lake where we would walk to and from time to time. I remember curfew sirens going off in the night when we were not allowed to be out. I attended school. We wore uniforms, ate French bread, recited a pledge of allegiance, learned how to sew by hand. I’ve lost the ability to speak my language. To this day I can still recite my numbers, a little part of my heritage, that I’m thankful to have not forgotten. Before the fall of Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City) in 1975, when South Vietnamese forces collapsed under the rapid advancement of North Vietnam, I was taken from my home by a woman and her soldier. I was placed in a Boeing 747 with a number of other people. A nine-year-old girl at the time, I still recall the emotions on the faces of the people, who rode the plane with me, the look of fear, sadness, confusion, and the most common of all, the look of relief. The flight took us to a safe haven, the refugee camp in Guam, Philippines. I recall memories from the camp, standing in line for clothes, shoes, food, sleeping in barracks. Even to this day the taste of fruit cocktail or plain M&M’s takes me back as if it were yesterday. The couple and I lived outside of camp for awhile, just off base, and I was allowed to explore the beautiful beaches off the island. Eventually, we left the island and they took me to San Diego, CA, where we stayed in a hotel for a short period of time. My only possessions were the dress I was wearing, sandals, and a little plastic flower purse with coins as my toys. After a few days the couple sent me on Greyhound bus to Denver, CO, with a note pinned on my dress. The note contained simply a name and an address. A lady, who I believed was my guardian angel, came to my rescue that next day. She noticed me crying at the bus station and she took me to a high rise building. I remember going up an elevator and knocking on a door, where an older gentleman answered. The man and the lady exchanged words and then we were turned away. I have always wondered the reason of the destination and if that man was my Father. It is a mystery still to this day. From Denver to Greeley, CO, I was placed into a receiving home and from there into foster care. I was raised by loving foster parents, who took me in as their own. They taught me the core values of life, faith in God, responsibility of owning your own actions and choices. They ensured my education was completed, taught me to live by determination, centered on importance of individual abilities. They gave me wings to fly into the next chapter of my life. As I reflect on these memories, I can’t help but ruminate upon the paths of my life’s existence. Stories like mine matter. It is important to recognize the distress of war, what it leaves behind, and the opportunities it creates for refugees like me. It gives us chances at life, education and prosperity, regardless of racial or cultural background. Most importantly, I would like to extend my gratitude to the immeasurable heroism, the sacrifice of these Red Poppies, men and woman, who fought for our nations, for the time taken away that can never be replaced, the physical effects of war on soldiers and their family and friends, the psychological effects from war, PTSD, depression, anxiety, inattention, sleeping difficulties, nightmares, survival guilt. For we know that the wounds from war are not confined to the battlefield. I want soldiers to know how grateful I am. Because of them, I the White Lotus have generated and been given the chance at rebirth and freedom.