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USS Carl Vinson’s Visit to Vietnam Brings Navy Dentist Full Circle

The visit to Vietnam by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, told reporters on Monday.

For Cdr. Hien Trinh, who heads the dental clinic aboard the nuclear-powered behemoth, it's personal.

His family, originally from Hanoi, moved to Saigon after northern communist forces defeated the French colonial army in 1954 and the country was divided.

Trinh's family fled again after North Vietnamese forces occupied Saigon in April 1975, as the United States withdrew from what Hanoi called the War Against the Americans to Save the Nation.

Trinh's father, a lieutenant colonel in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who commanded a garrison in Saigon, packed the family of eight in a fishing boat built to accommodate 20 crew members. With 180 others, the vessel headed into the South China Sea, bound for Singapore.

But "the island nation did not take refugees at the time and gave us provisions to head back out to sea," said Trinh.

A U.S. Navy ship rescued the 2-year-old Trinh, his family and the other boat people Trinh recalled, adding the family settled in Lansing, Michigan, and achieved the American Dream.

None of that would have been possible without the initial help from the Navy, and more importantly, the opportunities that the United States provides for her citizens, Trinh told VOA Vietnamese, which interviewed him via email as the Carl Vinson sailed toward Danang for a four-day visit.

Source: Voice of America