Amerasian Daughter Reunited With Vietnam Veteran Father After 16 Years
SEATTLE (AP) _ A Vietnam veteran’s family held a tearful reunion with his 20-year-old daughter, separated from them for 16 years by red tape.
″She’s home,″ Don Benson said after Hanh Dung arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Monday night. ″A few times I had a lot of wonders and a lot of worries, but you don’t give up on something like this.″
″I never gave up hope,″ his wife, Linh, said as she waited for her daughter’s plane to arrive. ″Every night I prayed and prayed.″
Ms. Benson’s prayers were answered at 6:35 p.m. Trembling and smiling nervously, she entered the plane to greet her daughter and her husband.
Ms. Benson and Hanh Dung emerged from the aircraft with tears in their eyes. Ms. Benson, her arms draped around her daughter, guided her to her 18- year-old sister, Kim, and her 15-year-old brother, Greg. Kim Benson was 2 when the family left for the United States. Hanh Dung had never seen her brother.
There were more tears than words.
Hanh Dung, clad in red corduroy pants, white and purple sneakers and a gray jacket over a white shirt, said nothing as she faced dozens of reporters and television cameras. She speaks little English and had been awake for more than 24 hours, her father said.
″She’s glad to be here. She’s tired and she’s worn out,″ said the 49- year-old retired Army sergeant. ″She’s got some adjusting to do.″
Benson and his wife, Linh, left South Vietnam in 1972, leaving Hanh Dung behind with her grandmother, who has since died.
Two years later, they tried to arrange for their daughter to travel to the United States, but progress was slow.
In 1975, South Vietnam fell to the communists.
Hanh Dung has held an exit visa from Vietnam since 1979, but U.S. officials would not allow her to emigrate because some medical test results had been lost.
Benson, who lives in Puyallup near Tacoma, traveled to Vietnam in February to try to bring his daughter back.
After Benson’s return to this country in April, his daughter was finally allowed to travel to Bangkok, Thailand. Following final arragements, she flew to San Francisco, where she met her father. The two continued to Seattle.
Asked Monday night what kept him going through the long fight to bring his daughter home, Benson replied simply, ″Love.″
He said his battle to get his daughter back left him bitter, and vowed to continue the fight to help reunite other Amerasian families.
″I don’t know what my next move is,″ Benson said. ″But there’s going to be a next move.″