What is that old saying?The best revenge is living well?Navy Commander Hung B. Le, who as a 5 year old in 1975 spent 2 days with
his family bobbing about in the South China Sea after they fled South Vietnam
ahead of communist forces bent on the “peaceful reunification” process.Picked up by the USS Barbour County (LST
1195), the Le family eventually made their way to Northern Virginia where Le
ended up graduating as valedictorian at Gar-Field High School (the school where
Pinchette #1 graduated from and the current school of Pinchette #2), went on to
the Naval Academy and now, as commanding officer of the aegis destroyer USS
Lassen (DDG 82), pulled into Da Nang harbor in the Peoples Republic of Vietnam
this week on a port visit.
What a country!!!!
Vietnamese born commander and crew of 300 spread the spirit of cooperation throughout Vietnam
By MSCN Devon Dow,
U.S. 7th Fleet
Posted: November 9, 2009
DA NANG, Vietnam
– Only three days into office, South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh
delivered an unconditional surrender to the North Vietnamese in the early hours
of April 30, 1975. That same morning in the seas off the coast of South Vietnam, a boy who once enjoyed the
outdoors with his siblings and his community in the city of Hue, found himself and his family aboard a
ship drifting further and further away from his homeland.
Some 34 years later that same boy is sailing back to his
homeland, this time as the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke
class guided missile destroyer, USS Lassen (DDG-82). As Cmdr. Hung B. Le, and
his crew sail closer to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for a goodwill mission,
Le remembers the day his childhood was changed forever.
“My father was a Commander in the South Vietnamese Navy and
was serving as the Deputy Commanding Officer of Nha Be Naval Support Base when
we left Vietnam”
he said. “My Dad navigated a fishing trawler with 400 passengers out to sea,
where we were picked up by USS Barbour County (LST-1195) on May 2, 1975.”
Lee and his immediate family never returned to live in Southeast Asia but says he still feels the cultural ties
and pride of his origin. “I do feel an attachment to Vietnam because I was born there as
was my entire immediate family,” he said. “I was raised eating Vietnamese and
American food and spoke both English and Vietnamese as a child. I am proud of
my Vietnamese heritage and proud to be an American.”
Le and his family settled in the United States in an east coast
community. Living within driving distance of his new home’s national capitol,
Le’s love for the country came instant.
“I have always loved America,” he said. “Growing up in
Northern Virginia, my family often went to Washington, D.C.
and enjoyed weekend picnics on the Mall and visiting the historic monuments and
museums. It seemed we were always going to the beach, which was great. I had a
An avid sports fan and supporter of the Washington Redskins,
as an adult Le adopted an idea that hit closer to home than his northern Virginia address was to
RFK Stadium. In 1992, Le, like his father, became a naval officer; the younger
Le earning his commission after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy with
merit with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. After serving tours on
four ships and 2 shore based commands, Le was given the opportunity to command
“I work with an outstanding, closely knit crew of nearly 300
Sailors on the Lassen so I am not lonely,” he said. “I enjoy walking around the
ship to talk to my Sailors. There is of course the administrative work that
goes with running a ship. Planning meetings, training sessions, and other
events help ensure that the ship's personnel, equipment, and training are being
taken care of.”
Le said his service in the Navy is his way of trying to give
back to the great Americans who helped his family begin a new life in the U.S.
“My parents are proud that I am the Commanding Officer of a U.S. Navy ship and
are excited that as part of my service I have the opportunity to visit the
country of my birth, he said.”
As Le and his crew make their way to the country he enjoyed
picking fruits from the trees as a child, he sees the significance of the two
nations that cultivated him continuing to build a stronger relationship.
and Vietnam have a growing
friendship, and our military-to-military engagement with Vietnam
continues to advance at a measured pace,” he said. “Last year the hospital ship
USNS MERCY was the first U.S.
military vessel to visit Nha Trang since 1975, providing humanitarian
assistance in cooperation with the Vietnamese Medical Corps.”
Upon his arrival to Da
Nang on Nov. 7, Le was greeted by the local media and
introduced to local political and military officials. When he was not being
interviewed or transported to a scheduled event Le found himself taking
countless photos with the local community who were excited to have their
picture taken with him. His ship, along with the 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue
Ridge (LCC19) engaged with the local community and further strengthened the
relationship between the U.S.
On his final day in port Le visited a Vocational
for homeless children in Da Nang.
During his visit Le learned about the efforts within the center to help the
youth through learning specific skills and focusing on the importance of an
education. He also presented Alfonso DeMattieis, a director at the center with
a plaque to commemorate the occasion.. Aside from Le’s gift, members of his
crew and Blue Ridge presented the center with
new sewing machines and rolled up their sleeves alongside community members and
gave the center fresh new coats of paint.
Le’s visit to his home country was not only a chance
for him to rediscover things about his past, but for the bond between two
nations to grow that much stronger. Like his father did during the end of the
Vietnam War, Le now leads a ship of people in the pursuit of freedom, and peace.
The best revenge? Not spending years of your life in a communist re-education camp and returning from whence you came in a warship entrusted to you by the world’s greatest nation! Yeah, buddy!
Well done, CDR Le!