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Lao Le

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Lao Tan Le was born in Vietnam and served in the South Vietnamese army from 1957 until April 30, 1975. A month later, he was sent to a government-run reeducation camp until 1981. He was put under surveillance for 3 years following his release, and he was unable to get a job. His wife had to support their family of 7 as a pottery trader. He applied to the United States' government's ODP program in 1990. On August 4, 1994, he arrived in the United States with his wife and youngest two sons. He could not bring his older children because they were married and over 21 years old. After ten years, he sponsored his three older children and their families to come to the United States, and they all lived in Minnesota.

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Lao Tan Le Transcription
My name is Lao Tan Le. WHY AM I LIVING IN UNITED STATES?
On the morning of April 30, 1975, I was commanding an Armored Squadron in Vietnam and we were engaged in fighting with the enemy. I heard a government command communication on the radio. It said “Everyone stop fighting, drop your weapons and go home, the war is over.” After I heard that, my head was topsy-turvy and I was downhearted. Many questions appeared, but without answers. All day long I didn’t eat and my body felt drawn. Finally, step by step, I walked home, with my body haggard and worked. From there, my day-to-day life was stressful and nervous as I waited for the result with a thumping heart.
One month later, a communist government council communicated a warrant, for the Army from officers to generals, for the administration from the chief bureau to ministers of the president and everybody concerned with reeducation. It said “Don’t forget to carry 47,000 piastres [Vietnamese currency] for one month of food.” We were upbeat and went to a place where they were on time. We were relieved, because we thought that after one month we would be reunited with our families. A month passed, but we were still in the reeducation camp. Now we understood that we were stopped by communists.
They called it “Reeducation through labor,” instead of a jail. We had no jail numbers or time when we would be released. They didn’t send us in front of any court. The only word was “concentrate for reeducation.” We came in easily, but getting out was very difficult.
Day time work was heavy and at night we were taught theories of Marxism and Leninism, or sang the praises of the communist party and the great Ho Chi Minh. The purpose was “Ideological reform” so we would have no reactionary thinking.
I spent my life in jail for 6 years, and was relieved in 1981, but I was put under surveillance for 3 years. Without a job, they followed me step by step. My family was 7 people. We needed food and clothes. My wife had to be a pottery trader, and we lived from hand to mouth. We had an unstable life.
In 1990, the American government had a program called “ODP.” This program provided for Vietnamese people, who wanted refuge from the communists, but you must have at least 3 years in jail or one year with an education course in a foreign military. I applied to this program.
On August 4, 1994, I came to Minnesota with my wife and my last two sons. The older son and two daughters, they already had family and were over 21 years old, so they couldn’t follow me, but after 10 years, all 3 of my children and their families were sponsored by me to come in Minnesota and all of them have jobs and their children go to school.
By the way, I want to thank all American people and government who helped my family immigrate to the United States with a better life. Now, I am very happy, because my family is reunited and we are living in the freedom country. We have avoided a hell on Earth of Vietnamese communism.