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Vietnamese Family Reunited After 14 Years

August 8, 1989

KENNER, La. (AP) _ A Vietnamese man who fled his native country hours before Saigon fell was reunited Monday with his wife and five of his seven children after 14 years of separation.

″I’m still very nervous and excited,″ Anthony Tran said at New Orleans International Airport, where Dao Tran and the children arrived from Vietnam via San Francisco. Translating for his wife, Tran said she couldn’t speak because ″she is too nervous.″

Anthony Tran was a chief engineer on a South Vietnamese army tugboat on April 29, 1975. He and the other 12 crew members decided to flee the country and pulled out of the Gulf of Tonkin about 12 hours before South Vietnam surrendered.

Tran said he had a friend spread the word that he was dead, fearing the North Vietnamese would harm his wife and children if they learned he had fled. Three years later, he got word to his family that he was alive and began sending money to his wife - between $3,000 and $6,000 each year, he estimated - so she could buy her family’s way out of the country.

Tran said Monday he had planned a party at his house and a thanksgiving Mass Tuesday at which he and his wife would renew their wedding vows.

After that, he said he would concentrate on teaching his family about living in the United States.

″I have to teach them about freedom and the difference between communism and freedom. Right now, I don’t understand them and they don’t understand me,″ Tran said.

Language may be a problem, he said.

″The first thing I have to know is how good they speak English. In this country, they can’t work without speaking English,″ Tran said.

He said he will not be able to support all his children - his oldest son is 32 - on his salary.

The Trans’ oldest daughter drowned in 1980 with 37 other refugees when their boat sank at sea. Their second oldest daughter is staying in Vietnam until the family can get enough money for her husband and their two children to emigrate, he said.

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