By Alana Chargualaf
Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs
ASAN, Guam (April 30, 2019) – The official plaques for the Lone Sailor statue were revealed during a dedication ceremony at the Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor's Complex in Hagåtña April 30.
Though the statue’s initial unveiling took place in December 2018, members of the local and military communities gathered, once more, to honor the Lone Sailor – a symbol of the significant relationship between the Navy, the sea services, Guam, and the thousands of Vietnamese citizens who found refuge on the island during Operation New Life in the ending days of the Vietnam War.
U.S. Navy Capt. Huan Nguyen of Naval Sea Systems Command, a Vietnamese-American who found refuge in Guam 44 years ago, spoke of the day that South Vietnam ceased to exist as a country during the war. At 14 years old, Nguyen arrived in Guam an orphan having lost his parents and siblings in the war.
He recalled the tens of thousands of Vietnamese, who fled on foot or took to the seas, only to be rescued by U.S. Sailors and Airmen and transported to Guam; their first step onto American soil.
“I was one of those refugees; apprehensive about an uncertain future, yet feeling extremely grateful I was here, at all,” he said. “America opened her arms and took us in as one of her own. Her generosity gave us hope. Her freedom gave us opportunity. Through the Lone Sailor memorial, we renew our gratitude and pride in the United States of America. Although we all came from different lands, we all share the same dream, and, together, we will continue to build this nation (and) continue to extol her values to the world. God bless America.”
Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander, Joint Region Marianas, recognized the nation’s Sailors, tying their honorable sacrifices to the Lone Sailor story.
“The call to duty is clear. A Sailor must always be ready to leave his or her warm bed, to be ready to walk down that pier, and to be ready to stand the watch... Sailors come from different backgrounds, to include many descendants of Operation New Life and many more who have served coming from the island of Guam, this deeply patriotic and vital part of the United States of America,” she said. “The plaque that is now permanently placed here will tell that story. That is why this statue is the personification of the intrepid, the bold, those that chose and continue to choose our Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.”
Cuong Pham and his wife, Nga Pham, were present at the ceremony, where memories of the war evoked emotions of both sadness and relief. They, too, were refugees in Guam during the first wave of Operation New Life.
“The feeling… very, very emotional coming back here after 44 years,” said Nga Pham. “It brought back my memory that, the first time I came here with a thousand refugees, we didn’t know the future of our lives, but American people, especially in Guam, opened their arms (and) welcomed us to give us hope.”
She felt a connection to the Lone Sailor statue, as her husband was a former officer in the Vietnamese Navy, who was inspired to join the service in awe of the inspirational work done by U.S. Navy Sailors.
“Thank you, America. Thank you, Guam,” said Cuong Pham. “We appreciate it, and we will try our best to contribute whatever we have – our heart (and) our mind – for this great nation.”
The placement of a Lone Sailor statue in Guam was a collaborative effort between the Vietnamese- American community and members of the U.S. Navy Memorial organization, and is the 16th statue of its kind in the world. It is the second Lone Sailor statue outside the continental United States.
The Lone Sailor stands alongside the Guam Seal and is surrounded by 19 benches that represent each of Guam’s villages.