When the Viet Cong were advancing toward Saigon in 1975, Linh Duy Vo was a nineteen-year-old university student there. After reading that his home town in the central province had already been conquered and that there would be no way to reach his family, he made the hurried decision to leave his homeland. He was one of the first to arrive at Camp Pendleton Marine Base, Oceanside, California, on May 2, 1975, one day after the fall of Saigon. He arrived with only a shirt, pants, and a few pictures.

In his heart over the years, Vo has carried a passionate gratitude to the United States government, President Nixon, and the Vietnam veterans for making his new life possible that day. This passion has inspired countless verses, especially one dedicated to the wartime experience with American soldiers. He titled it "Dear Daddy" to honor the American pilot who befriended him and was later killed and to all the others who came to help the Vietnamese people. Mr. Vo says, "Every Vietnam vet is my daddy. They went there to save a child like myself, and I am the child they saved."

In Washington, D.C., "Dear Daddy" has been displayed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Vo's body of work includes "Yellowstone," donated to the Yellowstone National Park, and "The Girl in the Photograph," that has been displayed with Nick Ut's 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a young naked girl running from a napalm attack. His work has been displayed at the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.

In the spring of 1995, Vo presented a bronzed poem to E.W. Ward Elementary School, Downey, California, entitled "Patriotism." It is on a monument, just tall enough to greet the children as they pass each day through the school's front door, to remind them of the importance of education, which Mr. Vo believes in so deeply. His most recent endeavor is a beautiful book of poetry that will touch all Americans, especially the families of Vietnam veterans and the veterans themselves.

Vo became a citizen in 1980. That same year his mother and brother joined him after escaping Vietnam on a rickety boat. He worked seven days a week helping his family get the best start in America. He credits his attendance at Cerritos College, California State University, Long Beach, and the influence of one professor in particular, Jack Wichert, for enabling him to support his dreams.

Today Vo lives with his wife and three children in Downey, California, as one of its most esteemed citizens.

Irene Lonergan
First Vice President
Delta Kappa Gamma Society International


You can email Linh at: letters@gratitude.org