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Vietnam Vet Reunited With Family

March 3, 2001

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) _ Carey Bateman reluctantly left the woman he loved, their son and unborn daughter 30 years ago when his tour of duty in Vietnam ended.

The war veteran’s decades-long search to find Tay Nguyen, and their two children ended Friday in an emotional reunion at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

``I just can’t describe it,″ said Bateman, who flew from his home in Hillsborough, N.C., to meet his long-lost family ``It’s just too much.″

Bateman and Tay Nguyen shared a long embrace. Then he hugged Hoang Nguyen, the 31-year-old son he last saw as an 18-month-old toddler, and Yen Nguyen, the 30-year-old daughter he’d never seen.

Though Bateman eventually married someone else and had two other children, he never forgot his family from Vietnam.

Bateman, 53, met Tay Nguyen, 50, in 1967 while serving as a soldier in the Vietnam War. He was 19 and she was 17.

``We fell in love and had two kids,″ Bateman said.

Bateman kept extending his tour of duty to stay in Vietnam with Tay and even re-enlisted after being sent back to the United States. By 1971 he was sent home for good.

Bateman said he tried to find out what happened to Tay Nguyen and their two children and even wanted to have them sent to America but ``you were fighting two governments at that time.″

Meanwhile, Vietnamese life wasn’t easy for the Nguyens. Being half American made the children frequent targets of persecution.

The Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987 paved the way for them to come to America. The family has been living outside Seattle, in Everett, for 10 years.

``I’ve been searching for him for 10 years,″ Hoang Nguyen said.

The Nguyens and Bateman both tried finding each other, but they encountered setbacks. Bateman went to Vietnam to find them in 1994, not knowing they were already in America, and was told by people there they might be dead.

In 1999, he saw a newspaper article about a Vietnamese woman who had been Tay Nguyen’s best friend. Linda Barron and Tay Nguyen were roommates in Vietnam, but were separated when Barron married an American soldier and left with him in 1970.

Bateman and Barron got together last May, and by February, Bateman and the Nguyens had each other’s addresses.

``What was ironic about it was they found me about two days before I found them,″ Bateman said. ``We were both closing in on each other.″

``After 30 years this is a miracle,″ Barron said.

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