FORT HOOD — As Viet Luong's wife pinned the star on his chest Wednesday morning to promote him to the rank of brigadier general, history was made.
Born in Vietnam and brought to America during the 1975 fall of Saigon, Luong is the first Vietnamese-American to make general officer in the United States Army.
"The journey was arduous," said Luong, deputy commander for maneuver for 1st Cavalry Division, standing at the podium at Cooper Field.
At age 10, Luong's father, a Vietnamese marine, got their family of 10 onto a flight during Operation Frequent Wind and into a refugee camp in Arkansas. The family then settled in Los Angeles.
"Viet and sisters are Americans now by choice," said Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood and reviewing officer for the promotion ceremony. "He has served this great nation honorably over the last many decades. ... There's no one in uniform today that epitomizes what it takes to be an American soldier more than Viet Luong."
Among the hundreds in attendance were Luong's seven sisters, mother, wife and three children. State-based Vietnamese news outlets traveled to capture the historic moment.
Luong described the day as "fairly emotional.
"I don't like to tell that story too much," he said. "I'm deeply humbled. I do have some responsibility ... to tell the story of our nation and what it stands for."
Luong said his promotion is about America and the soldiers, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice — some under his command in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'm a symbol of democracy, freedom and the justice of our constitution," he said.
Read more about this story in tomorrow's Killeen Daily Herald.