In 1978, along with 340 other Vietnamese Boat People, four-year-old Tran Quan and her family escaped their homeland. After a year in a refugee camp in Thailand, they immigrated to America.
Tran Quan’s new memoir, Soldier On: My Father, His General, & the Long Road from Vietnam (Texas Tech University Press, 240 pp. $26.95, paper: $9.95, Kindle) is an inspiring book in which she tells the story of her family in Vietnam and in the U.S.A.
Soldier On focuses mainly on two former ARVN soldiers: Lt. Le Quan (Tran’s father) and Maj. Gen. Tran Ba Di (Le Quan’s commander). Le Quan was attached to the 16th Regiment, in the Army of South Vietnam’s 9th Infantry Division; Tran Ba Di commanded the 9th Infantry Division. During years of fighting the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, the two men met and formed a bond of recognition and respect.
The story begins with the childhoods of both Le Quan and Tran Ba Di and continues through their Army careers, their service in the war, their internments in communist re-education camps, their immigration to the U.S., and their final years.
The book is appropriately titled Soldier On, as it chronicles two men who continually tried to achieve something despite running into difficulties. Tran’s parents and the general soldiered on throughout their lives.
Upon arriving in America (Le Quan in 1979 and Tran Ba Di in 1993), the former soldiers made new lives for themselves and their families. On a combined family road trip in 2015 from Orlando to Key West, Le Quan and Tran Ba Di renewed their old friendship and built new ties.
As that trip proceeded, stories materialized. Soldier On presents those stories, which give a seldom-heard perspective of the American War in Vietnam and shed light on the everyday lives of Vietnamese military personnel. I learned a good deal about how the South Vietnamese people carried on with their lives normally during the war despite the death and destruction around them.
Le Quan’s family worked hard and achieved the American Dream: they owned a car, a house, and their own business. Tran Ba Di settled in Orlando where he worked until the age of 74.
In 2002, Tran Quan graduated from college. She joined the U.S. Army, graduated from medical school, and served four years active duty as an Army doctor.
I strongly recommend Soldier On.