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A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American…

A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American Journey

by Quang X Pham

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Quang X. Pham's moving memoir, "A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American Journey," reads like a modern Horation Alger success story. But more than that, it is a rare look into the difficult private lives of one fragmented and frightened family who barely made it out of Saigon during those infamous "last days." Pham's father, a South Vietnamese AF pilot, stayed behind, a victim of his own sense of duty, and paid a heavy price. In cuttingly clear and elegantly simple prose, Pham tells of his life, from the refugee camps of Guam and Arkansas to the working-class "mean streets" of Oxnard, California, and of the ceaseless toil and sacrifices made by his mother in a strange land. "A Sense of Duty" also tells of Pham's hard-won transformation from a ragged refugee boy to UCLA graduate and decorated USMC pilot and Gulf War veteran. But underneath it all is an aching yearning to know a father who was lost and then found again. Pham's story is indeed an "American Journey," one that will be read, and read again. This is more than a memoir; this is personal history at its very best. ( )
  TimBazzett | May 23, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0891418733, Hardcover)

Quang X. Pham’s A Sense of Duty, the first book written by a former Vietnamese refugee who became a U.S. Marine, is an affecting memoir about fate, hope, and the aftermath of the most divisive war America has fought. It is both a heartfelt salute to the spirit of America and a recounting of a son’s reunion with his long absent father, himself a devoted officer who saw combat firsthand.

In 1964, Hoa Pham, a South Vietnamese fighter pilot, was shot down by Viet Cong antiaircraft fire while supporting American forces. Rescued by an American helicopter after crash-landing, he returned home briefly to witness the birth of his son, Quang, before rejoining the fight against the Communists.

Just before the fall of Saigon, Hoa made sure that his wife and children escaped Vietnam. He himself was not so lucky. In a rush to help relatives flee the chaos, Hoa was captured by Communist troops and subsequently imprisoned for more than a decade in reeducation camps.

Twelve years later, after gaining his citizenship and graduating from UCLA, Quang enlisted in the U.S. Marines to serve his country as his father had served his. Though part of the victorious effort to free the Kuwaitis from Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, he could not shake off the feelings of guilt and inadequacy associated with his “refugee complex.”

When father and son at last reunited, Hoa’s revelations about his wartime experience left Quang even more conflicted about his service in the Marines. But after years of struggling to reconnect with each other and the homeland they left behind, Quang and his gravely ill father set out on a final and profound quest–to make sense of the war in Vietnam.

A Sense of Duty traces Quang’s uniquely spirited yet agonizing journey from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War, from his experiences as an uprooted refugee to his becoming a combat aviator, and his many incarnations in between. It reveals the turmoil of a family torn apart and reunited by the fortunes of war. It is an American journey like no other.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:57 -0400)

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