By Sgt. Alun Thomas
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, many Vietnamese immigrants saw the United States as a beacon of hope as they escaped their war-torn nation. The family of Capt. Tram Truong was no exception, seeing little future in a country traumatized by years of fighting and hostility. Luckily for Truong, a flight surgeon for 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, the U.S. turned out to be her family's savior and led to her serving in the U.S. Army.
Truong, who was born in Vietnam, said her parents witnessed the Vietnam War and were disillusioned with the outcome.
"They had three daughters and thought it would be a better life (in America), because we were growing up in the communist times," Truong, 32, said. "My dad doesn't talk much about (the Vietnam War). He was in the Vietnamese army fighting the (communists) and he was in the concentration camps for several years."
The communist environment stifled the chances of a good education, another factor in the move to the United States, Truong said.
"My mother wanted to be a lawyer but never got to pursue it because she was restricted on what she could do education-wise," Truong said. "She saw this as a limiting factor for us kids."
With the assistance of relatives already in the United States, Truong's family managed to secure admission into their new country.
"My aunt's family sponsored my mom so we could come to America," Truong said. "The process took several years and I came over with my family in 1985 when I was 7."
At first, things were difficult because Truong's parents were struggling to make ends meet; the language barrier was also a problem. Things improved significantly for Truong's family when they moved to California, where there were more job opportunities.
"My dad was originally an engineer in Vietnam and when he came to the U.S. they didn't recognize his degree," Truong said. "He eventually got his engineering degree in the U.S., and he and my mother got into the electronic field."
Truong wanted to become a doctor. She joined the Army through the Health Professional Scholarship Program, which helped pay for medical school.
After graduating from medical school, Truong was promoted to captain and assigned to Fort Belvoir, Va., where she was told she would deploy to Iraq with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. Truong's husband is a captain in the Army also and works at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a situation which she finds difficult sometimes.
"My husband is also a physician, but I think it's just a little too hard being dual military," Truong said about being separated from her husband. "For officers it may be a little easier, but it's whatever works for the military and if they can accommodate you, they'll try."