Pascagoula, Mississippi: Đối với cô Asley Nguyễn, đóng tàu bè là một cách để cám ơn nước Mỹ, là cách mà cô cảm ơn Hoa kỳ đã cứu thoát đại gia đình của cô trong ngày 30 tháng 4 năm 1975, trên đường chạy trốn cộng sản, tìm tự do.
Cô Asley hiện nay là kỹ sư thiết kế tại công ty chế tạo tàu Ingalls Shipbuilding ở Pascagoula, Mississippi., chuyên môn thiết kế các boong tàu cho các chiến hạm Mỹ.
Tuyên bố với báo chí, cô Asley cho biết cô cũng như những người Việt tỵ nạn đã nợ nước Mỹ một món nợ ân tình. Và một cách để cô Asley trả món nợ ân tình đó là tham dự vào việc chế tạo tàu bè, vì món nợ ân tình của cô đối với nước Mỹ có liên quan đến tàu hải quân
Bố mẹ của cô Asley, hai ông bà Thanh và Gia Nguyễn, là những ngư phủ khi còn ở Việt Nam, và ngày 30 tháng 4 khi cộng sản chiếm miền Nam, gia đình ông Nguyễn đã đưa thuyền đánh cá ra biển, và được một tàu hải quân Mỹ vớt. Bà Thanh Nguyễn đang có bầu 9 tháng và đã sanh cô Asley trên tàu, sau hai ngày trên biển.
Gia đình cô đã không nhớ tên chiếc tàu hải quân mà cô Asley đã sinh ra đời.
Gia đình cô cùng những người tỵ nạn, được đưa đến đảo Guam, và sau đó được đưa đến Fort Chaffee ở Missouri, và được định cư trong vùng Mississppi Gulf Coast.
Ashley Nguyen, born aboard Navy ship as family fled Vietnam, earns living as Ingalls shipbuilder
Ingalls Shipbuilder Ashley Nguyen, a structural designer, was born aboard a U.S. Navy ship when her family was rescued during the Vietnam War. Now, she helps build Navy ships.
PASCAGOULA, Mississippi -- For Ashley Nguyen, shipbuilding is a way to thank America.
It's how she acknowledges the country that rescued her large family as they fled the Vietnam War and communism.
It showcases her gratitude for the opportunity to begin life inside the safety and security of a U.S. Navy ship, where she was born in 1975.
Nguyen now spends her workdays in Pascagoula as an Ingalls Shipbuilding structural designer, building 3D and 2D models of Navy ship hulls, decks and bulkheads.
"I feel so fortunate to be able to put my talents to use this way," she said Friday afternoon.
"I feel like I, and the rest of the Vietnamese people, owed the United States a favor," she said. "America is freedom, free enterprise and the opportunity to be whatever you want to be. It's an honor to live here."
Nguyen said her parents -- Thanh and Gia Nguyen -- were fishermen during the war. After the fall of Saigon, they took their boat out several times to try to get aboard one of the many U.S. Navy ships around their South Vietnam town.
"They had been turned down so many times because the ships were always full," she said. "But after three or four attempts, we were finally picked up. My mother was 9 months pregnant, so it was really tough for her."
Even tougher is getting her parents to talk about the rescue, even today.
"I hear the story in bits and pieces from my family," the 16-year Ingalls employee said.
"My parents remember so much death," she said. "People would try to climb into a ship -- grabbing on to anything they could hold onto -- and they would fall and drown. My mom said they looked like ants because there were so many bodies."
Getting to a U.S. boat was worth the risk, though, "because it was for freedom," Nguyen said. "Living under communist rule -- that's not freedom at all."
Even though Nguyen was born aboard a U.S. Navy vessel two days after her parents and siblings were rescued, she was legally born in Vietnam.
The family could never recall the name of the ships that saved them, she said, but there was a smaller ship that took the family to a much larger ship with thousands of other refugees.
They were taken to Guam and then on to a refugee camp at Fort Chaffee in Missouri, and they later connected with a relative on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where Nguyen has spent most of her life.
Nguyen, who earned a degree in design drafting at MGCCC's Jackson County campus, said she and her 11 siblings have careers in medicine, business, finance, gaming and more.
"We know what our parents went through and the opportunities we have had," she said. "We are all thankful. We all know that this is the best country. Even if we don't see that sometimes, it's true."
Nguyen has a nephew in the Navy and another nephew who was formerly in the Marine Corps, so she knows how important her shipbuilding job is to military personnel's safety.
"When I talk to the Navy nephew, he's always like, 'Aunt Ashley, you don't know how thankful I am that you build these ships,' and I'm always like, 'This is backwards. I should be thanking you.'"
Nguyen is the latest employee featured in Huntington Ingalls Industries' "Tougher Than Steel" campaign.
The campaign kicked off in 2013 and focuses on shipbuilders with interesting stories. It features full-page print ads in local newspapers and defense publications.
You can catch Nguyen's ad in the Oct. 30 issue of The Mississippi Press, and you canclick here to watch a short Ingalls-produced video about the shipbuilder.
Nguyen said she never thought too much about her Navy ship connections, but now she sees the uniqueness.
"It's just ironic," she said with a laugh.
"I never really thought of it until I got hired in here, but it just fits all together," she said. "It must have been meant to be."
April M. Havens
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