Time of Remembrance – Steve Ly
Interview with Steve Ly as part of the Secret War Oral History Project.
00:44 Clip 1 – Steve Ly remembers leaving Laos “like in a dream” in “bits and pieces.”
02:21 Clip 2 – Reflects on earliest memories of being in camps in Thailand. Describes housing and separate cooking quarters.
02:53 Clip 3 – Shares that father was an officer under General Vang Pao. This was the “secret army” that was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.
05:57 Clip 4 – Reflects on the family’s placement in Gardena, California, a community with Japanese and Koreans.
10:20 Clip 5 – Remembers starting kindergarten in Los Angeles Unified (150 3rd Street School) not speaking English and with no language support available.
12:37 Clip 6 – Recalls stories shared by his mother and father.
16:40 Clip 7 – Explains politics in Laos during Vietnam War. Parents were constantly moving to avoid enemy factions.
19:17 Clip 8 – Shares his interest in the “Secret War” started in high school. He’d always thought of his father’s stories as “cloak & dagger.”
26:57 Clip 9 – Comments on and describes “beacons of freedom,” such as the United States, Australia, Canada, France. His dad shared that all his friends who helped in the journey were Americans.
28:39 Clip 10 – Shares journey to America and the fear that many Hmong refugees had of coming to America.
30:49 Clip 11 – Recalls that his family came to America with $5. Steve’s family did not have educational opportunities in Laos beyond elementary school. His father, therefore, could not go beyond rank of captain.
34:44 Clip 12 – Emphasizes need to tell whole story about a war. For the Vietnam War, we currently omit story of “Secret War,” General Vang Pao, the Hmong, Mien, Khmu. The Vietnam War did not just occur in Vietnam.
37:53 Clip 13 – Reflects on fleeing Laos, which required burying and leaving behind almost everything.
47:28 Clip 14 – Realized the seriousness of possibility of staying in Thailand or splitting family and coming to America.
52:20 Clip 15 – Recalls the journey out of Laos. They left with only what they could carry.
58:32 Clip 16 – Changed family names to lowland Lao names, which were associated with Communism. Mom had to get rid of traditional Hmong clothing and switch to Lao clothing.
1:07:07 Clip 17 – Discusses his family arriving in Thailand and discusses the irony of fighting in Laos to have a say in the government to then escape to a refugee camp that was “like a prison”.
1:09:23 Clip 18 – Explains camp life in more detail focused on food, discusses being hospitalized in the camps and being malnourished.
1:13:43 Clip 19 – Concludes that the short stay his family endured in the refugee camp, one year, was due to his Father’s service to the military and that they arrive in the US in 1977.
1:16:09 Clip 20 – Describes being part of the last generation that was born in the “old country” and explains the importance of preserving these stories.
1:16:48 Clip 21 – Explains war and its legacy, especially the impact of war on communities, people and the environment.
1:20:51 Clip 22 – Recounts the story of an African-American neighbor Ms. Ernie who helped the family when they first arrived in the United States.
1:24:31 Clip 23 – Discusses how his Father, who used public transportation to attend adult school was harassed and mistreated on a daily basis.
1:30:04 Clip 24 – Describes his experience as an elementary student in Clovis, Ca and how he was bullied because he was different – he was picked on and also excluded which led him to be quiet and stay off the radar.
1:35:11 Clip 25 – Explains the significance of Laos as a battleground for South East Asia. The Ho Chi Mihn Trail crossed into the Hmong homeland.
1:39:31 Clip 26 – Describes being born in Xieng Khouang, a province that is notable for a series of sandstone and granite jars.
1:41:27 Clip 27 – Discusses the physical size of Xieng Khouang indicating it is large but sparsely populated.
1:42:19 Clip 28 – Explains that he would like to return to Laos, but is fearful because his Father was an officer and there could be repercussions.
1:44:39 Clip 29 – Explains why he ran for the school board.
1:46:54 Clip 30 – Discusses the on-going military issues that continue to plague Laos because of Hmong rebels who still want to continue to fight.
To learn more about the Time Remembrance Project, please visit: http://blogs.egusd.net/tor/
For more information about the Vietnam War, please visit: http://blogs.egusd.net/tor/interviews