April 30th is the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. In Vietnamese, it is remembered as Tháng Tư Đen — Black April.
It is a time to remember and honor our more than 58,000 fallen and missing soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, our half a million Vietnam War veterans, and a million and a half South Vietnamese allies, as well as our allies from Australia, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand and the Philippines, who fought and died in the pursuit of freedom and democracy.
We must never forget their sacrifice.
This anniversary is also a time to recognize and celebrate the tremendous contributions that Vietnamese Americans have made to our nation and to our shared American way of life.
Large-scale immigration from Vietnam to the United States began in April 1975, when the fall of Saigon led to the U.S.-sponsored evacuation of an estimated 125,000 Vietnamese refugees.
Many of these initial post-war immigrants first arrived in America at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, which is now the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.
As the humanitarian crisis and displacement of people in the Indochina region (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) intensified, more refugees and their families were admitted to the United States.
The Vietnamese immigrant population has grown significantly since then, roughly doubling every decade between 1980 and 2000, and then increasing 26 percent in the 2000s. In 2017, more than 1.3 million Vietnamese resided in the United States, accounting for 3 percent of the nation’s 44.5 million immigrants and representing the sixth-largest foreign-born group in the country.
We must also use this anniversary to renew our commitment to ensure that human rights and freedom are one day respected in Vietnam.
Like many people in Orange County, I have been moved to tears by the heartbreaking stories of the suffering of many of my Vietnamese friends and their families — stories of their tremendous struggles and their remarkable strength in coming to this country as refugees in one of the largest mass migrations in modern history.
We must never forget the incredible hardships they endured and never cease to admire their courageous determination to live in freedom.