This April, over 40 Amerasians are returning to Saigon for the first time since they left at the end of the conflict in Vietnam 35 years ago. For many of them, the departure was dramatic—part of the hastily-assembled Operation Babylift that successfully evacuated over ,3000 Vietnamese orphans from war-torn Vietnam to the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
Now, with the help of Operation Reunite, these adoptees are returning to the land of their birth for the first time to learn more about the country they came from. The culmination of over a year of planning, Operation Reunite’s April Reunion Tour will guide the adoptees to a better understanding of Vietnam. The tour includes staple tourist-activities such as a Mekong Delta tour and drinks at the Rex Hotel to more personal moments like the a visit to the crash site of the first C5 plane to leave Vietnam during Operation Babylift. Some of the adoptees are survivors of that very crash.
The ultimate goal, though, is to help the adoptees reach a deeper understanding of the people and culture that they came from. Language classes, visits to orphanages, and a soccer scrimmage with Vietnamese students are planned for that very reason. The most important factor, however, is in the drive of the adoptees themselves to reach out to this forgotten part of their past.
When you talk to Trista Goldberg, Operation Reunite’s founder and herself an Amerasian adoptee, you can easily feel her passion and drive for what she is doing. “I am very excited to see how many Vietnamese adoptees are coming together for this momentous reunion in Vietnam,” she says. Trista herself struggled to find her own reunion years ago. Born Nguyen Thi Thu in 1970, Trista left the country in 1974 and was raised an American girl. When she received her adoption file from her adoptive mother at the age of 25, however, she began her long emotional journey to learn about her past. She took Vietnamese courses and found her biological relatives, eventually having a reunion with them in Hawaii in 2001. Now 39, Trista is helping others start down that path with Operation Reunite.
When asked what she hopes to accomplish, Trista simply says that she “hope[s] everyone is able to walk away from the experience with a sense of love and respect for their homeland.” Thirty-five years after Operation Babylift, Trista and Operation Reunite bring some of those same Amerasian adoptees full circle. I invite those of us who will be in Saigon this April to come out and help welcome them back.
Operation Reunite: http://operationreunite.org/