Viet Phuong Tran and daughter, Iris Vietnam As you know, my country divided in 1954, north and south. My family was originally from North Vietnam. We moved to the South to escape communism. We chose freedom. By the time I had finished high school and my military training, my country was at war. I was stationed in a small town along the border. It was a dangerous place. By day everything seemed normal, but after nightfall the shooting began. Before the fall of Saigon in 1975, soldiers and government employees were able to provide for their families. After the long war, the government and military of South Vietnam collapsed. The entire work force in the South was replaced. People were stripped of their possessions and sent to the countryside to become farmers, work they knew nothing about. Life became so hard that where there was once goodwill and humble relationships, there began to be mistrust and suspicion. Everyone was suffering some degree of malnutrition. I think hunger changes everything. Religious expression was forbidden, and all basic human rights were denied. Many people were living in fear. I was able to find a camera and film to work as a photographer, but only in secret, as this enterprise was forbidden. Any time I worked it was always with the threat of being reprimanded and my equipment confiscated. By 1985 I had no hope. I was unable to provide for my family; I had to think about escape. I tried the first time by boat. I left my family and went with my oldest son to the coast to meet a small boat that would carry us at night to a larger ship. We went right into a trap; the main vessel had already been seized by the government. It was terrible; all escapees were brought back and brutally imprisoned, chained, and left for days without food or water. Men and women were chained together without privacy. We were charged with betraying the government, a serious charge carrying severe punishment. We were not allowed to communicate; we just had to wait for interrogation. Prisoners had to write their own statements and were forced to incriminate themselves. All who admitted they were fleeing to find freedom were punished more severely. I always spoke my mind about the desire to escape oppression and economic hardship. As a result, I spent two years in prison. It was many years later that my family and I were able to leave Vietnam. My wife and I had adopted a half-American baby as our first child thinking we could not conceive, only to have five more of our own. In 1990 I became aware of the Orderly Departure Program, established by the United States government to repatriate half-American children and their families, as well as former military officers. I did the necessary paperwork and was eventually accepted. My entire family left Vietnam in 1992, arriving in the United States with nothing but our clothes.