April 28, 2023

OC lawmakers commemorate Black April with congressional resolution

Reps. Michelle Steel and Lou Correa are commemorating the 48th anniversary of Black April with a bipartisan congressional resolution.

Black April marks the fall of Saigon and South Vietnam on April 30, 1975 to North Vietnamese troops. Millions of Vietnamese fled in boats to escape the communist regime, many finding a home in Orange County and building Little Saigon. Black April is marked locally each year with somber events.

The two OC lawmakers, who together chair the Vietnam Caucus in Congress, said they also introduced the bipartisan resolution to recognize the servicemembers — from Vietnam, the U.S. and other allied forces — who fought and lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

Steel, a Korean American, represents Little Saigon, the largest diaspora of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam. Pointing to human rights violations and a lack of free speech in Vietnam today, Steel said the resolution serves as a somber reminder of the past while also reaffirming the country’s commitment to “defending democracy.”

“We do this resolution because it should not happen again,” Steel said.

“We lost over 58,000 U.S. servicemen and women during this war, and we have to remember one thing: Freedom is not free,” said the Seal Beach Republican. It is estimated between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese died in the fighting.

As Correa stood on the U.S. House floor Friday morning to make some remarks commemorating Black April, he was taken back to his high school years, he said, when he was in an ROTC program and preparing for the very real possibility of being drafted to Vietnam.

“I was ready to go fight for my country, for freedom in Vietnam,” he said in an interview Friday. Though the draft and war ended before Correa could be called up, he said he watched as neighbors and friends who went off to fight either didn’t come home at all or returned with “those invisible wounds” that altered their lives.

“There’s a lot of memories those years, and it always comes back when I think about the Vietnam War and the Vietnam experience,” Correa said.

The resolution, he said, also serves as a celebration of sorts of all that the Vietnamese people have overcome and accomplished in America, as well as a nod to the immigrant experience.

“What we’re living through right now, at the border, the people who are doing almost exactly what the Vietnam refugees did almost 50 years ago,” Correa said. “These refugees from Vietnam have done so much to transform our society — they have really injected a boost to our economy and our culture. We need to remember that, because especially in Orange County, we are changing on a day-to-day basis.”

Also joining the resolution as co-sponsors are California Rep. Jim Costa and GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

In Westminster on Sunday, the day will be recognized with a wreath ceremony, prayers, songs and more at Sid Goldstein Freedom Park from 10 a.m. to noon.

And in Sacramento this week, legislators declared May 11 as Vietnam Human Rights Day. From Assemblymember Tri Ta, R-Westminster, the designation recognizes the “support of efforts to achieve freedom and human rights for the people of Vietnam.”

Source: The Orange County Register