A must-read 4th of July Story
Judging by the joy he exudes every time you see him at work, it would be impossible to grasp how difficult Tri Vo’s childhood was. The food service worker genuinely loves freedom, his job, family and those around him. He exemplifies the reason why we celebrate Independence Day- Freedom.
Born in South Vietnam in 1963, Tri vividly remembers growing up during the height of the Vietnam War – a long, costly and divisive conflict that pitted the Communist government of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States.
A year before Tri was born, his father, Richard Vo, joined the U.S Army in South Vietnam to help fight the Communist government in the North. Once U.S. forces were withdrawn from the war in 1973, the Communist forces seized control of South Vietnam and vowed to seek revenge on South Vietnamese families and Americans who fought in the war. Tri’s father was captured and held as a Prisoner of War (POW).
The imprisonment of Tri’s father left his family with nothing. For 10 years, Tri, his mom, two sisters and two brothers did anything and everything to survive.
“The communist government didn’t allow us to access my dad’s bank account once they took him to jail,” Tri said. “We were left with nothing. The only money we had was what my dad was saving at home.”
Tri recalls going door-to-door to ask for food and doing manual labor as a young child. Even getting an education was a nightmare because the Communist government did everything possible to make life miserable for those who opposed them.
“They killed my grandparents, didn’t allow us access to anything and just made life so hard,” Tri lamented. “My mother was a stay-at-home wife before my dad went to jail, and even though she tried to work on the farm to make some money while he was gone, she just wasn’t great at it. She didn’t know what she was doing.”
Through all of this, Tri and his family survived until his father was released in 1985.
“I remember when my dad was released. He went into jail weighing 150 lbs. and came out around 110 lbs.,” Tri said. “The conditions there were bad.”
In 1987, the Vo family applied for a visa to move to the United States. Due to the number of Vietnamese refugees coming into the U.S. at the time, it took a long time for families like the Vo’s, who were allowed to obtain a visa because of their service with the U.S. Army.
“It took 10 years to get our application accepted. There were a lot of people fleeing to the U.S., and the application had to go through the U.S. embassy in Thailand because the embassy in Saigon (the largest city in Vietnam) had been destroyed.”
Finally, in 1997, the Vo family was granted entry into the U.S. and have lived in Oklahoma since.
Tri got married a year after immigrating to the U.S. and had a son shortly after that. He worked at both the Daily Oklahoman and the Cowboy Hall of Fame for 17 years.
“I worked in the mailroom at the Daily Oklahoman at night and worked as a cook at the Cowboy Hall of Fame during the day,” Tri said.
On May 4, 2017, Tri began working at Bethany Children’s. He says he loves it here because of the people and the teamwork.
“This place is special to me. I love the people, the families and the teamwork,” Tri said. “I know how to do everything needed in my department, and for me, it is never a problem to take on more hours or cover for others when needed. I just love working.”
Tri’s dad passed away two years ago, and although Tri misses him, he is thankful for what he did to give his family a better life.
“Family is a huge part of the Vietnamese culture. It is something I am teaching my son,” Tri said. “When we first came to the U.S., my siblings and I worked hard to make sure our parents did not have to pay the bills. They already did so much for us to be here. I still take my 82-year-old mother dinner every evening after work. That’s just what we do.”
When asked what he loves the most about being in the U.S., Tri said…
“I LOVE FREEDOM…. and working!”