Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Proud to be an American

You may have already seen this, but what a feel-good story it is:

Born in Vietnam in 1969, Nguyen was, in his words, a "war baby," the son of a man he never knew, an American soldier, named Rodriguez.

Nguyen doesn’t know whether his father was among the 58,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War.

"I always pray that he has a happy life," Nguyen said. "A happy family. Proud in every way of what he does."

At 23, Nguyen applied for a visa and arrived in the United States in 1992. He moved to Fort Worth three years later. Now a U.S. citizen, he received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. While stationed at the Army’s Fort Meade in Maryland, Nguyen attended Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., at night and earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

About 1  1/2 years ago, he decided to broaden his education by undertaking this walk across the land he loves. He saved about $25,000 for expenses. On his job as a contracted meter reader, he met David Dominguez, a 25-year-old co-worker, who quit his job to make the six-month trip.

Nguyen planned to start in California. But Victor Nguyen, principal of St. Ignatius College Preparatory in Fort Worth, a small private nonprofit school, warned against the strategy. He told his friend that he couldn’t withstand the brutal Arizona heat in June and July. So he reversed the itinerary.

He began his journey wearing a pair of Crocs, which he wore as a meter reader.

A sign Nguyen wears across his back reads: "Shore To Shore. A Walk Across America To Honor Those Who Serve!"

The walker is ever-mindful to show respect for the flag he proudly bears.

"Every three weeks, I gently soak her and hand wash her and dry her," Nguyen said. "Without the flag and the support of people, I couldn’t walk. She is my protection."

Nguyen and his companion have discovered the friendliness, the goodness, the generosity and the patriotism of Americans.

In Shreveport, a man gave him tomatoes and a cantaloupe from his roadside stand. A woman bought the pair a meal at a Waffle House. In Quitman, Ga., a man insisted that they spend the night in his home.

In cities and towns, strangers dug into their pockets and made donations — from 25 cents to $100. So far, the offerings total more than $1,500.

A week into the walk, Nguyen experienced a throbbing toothache. He gulped ibuprofen and walked on.

Toenails fell off. Skin between his toes cracked and bled. He lost 20 pounds.

"I know he is hurting, but he doesn’t complain. He is strong," Dominguez said. He looked admiringly at his friend. "I feel like a more patient man, thanks to Sinh."

Nguyen flashed his 1,000-watt grin.

"I speak English with a broken accent, but an intact heart. I have very solid faith in America."

Read the whole thing. It's an amazing, incredible, uplifting story.

Sinh Tho Nguyen reminds me why I'm proud to be an American.


LeeAnn said...

It's a great story. But the first thing that came to mind was, "What will Rod Dreher say about this man's Crocs?" Did the Crocs make his toenails fall out? Or did they save his feet? Will Crocs sponsor the rest of his walk? Writers need to be careful of the random details they put into stories like these!

Red Cardigan said...

LeeAnn, great comment! :)