Vietnamese cab driver an unsung champion

Tri-City HeraldAugust 15, 2012 

The Olympics have always been a tribute to the human spirit, forever an image of determination reaching for the gold. New records astound as historic moments play before millions drawn to the scene.

But there are some unsung champions who will never hear applause or have their amazing feats in history books. Their quiet courage and resolve go unnoticed.

Yet, as my taxi sped toward the airport a week or so ago, the Honolulu driver had me wanting to cheer.

"When I was 15 years old," the Vietnamese cabbie told me over his shoulder, the early morning traffic picking up speed, "my mother put me on a boat to escape the Viet Cong after the fall of Saigon. I didn't know if I would live or die."

Weaving among vehicles as he talked, the story was a page-turner. For days, this teen sat shoulder-to-shoulder with other refugees, cramped in a small boat tossed by massive ocean waves.

"We were packed so tightly," he continued, remembering the misery, "we couldn't even turn around."

Miraculously, the "boat people"ultimately found safe haven on the shores of Malaysia. Among this boy's meager belongings was proof that his imprisoned father had served with the U.S. Marines. That was his "ticket" to freedom and a better life in America.

Still, that life didn't come easily.

"I worked many hours and tried to attend school," the cab driver commented with some regret, "but I didn't understand the language."

Caught between the desire to go to school and the necessity of making a living, he was forced to drop out, leaving his dream of an education behind.

However, the story doesn't end here.

"I work all the time — every day," he smiled into the rear view mirror, "so my children can do better."

This indomitable man related how his oldest daughter attends the University of Hawaii and another will leave for the University of Southern California this fall.

My emotions swelled in recognition of what he had accomplished. Because of his sacrifice -- and his parents who gave so much for America -- these young women have been presented with a golden opportunity.

For this feat, my unassuming cab driver deserves a medal.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service