VSA requests change in flag representation

In 1975, an estimated 1.5 million people fled South Vietnam. Leaving everything and headed anywhere, many set out in small fishing vessels to escape the retaliation and persecution of the North Vietnam communist regime. At the mercy of the open ocean, seafaring pirates and dissident governments sympathetic to the North Vietnam cause, these small and overcrowded boats were the only chance for salvation for the population.
For those fortunate enough to survive the insurmountable journey across the sea, the task of starting anew in a foreign country only provided further tribulations. In the United States alone, some 800,000 displaced South Vietnamese citizens found themselves with nothing but their freedom. What these refugees lacked in possessions and material goods, they made up for with pride and spirit for themselves and their heritage.
Thirty-six years later, those who risked their lives to escape the evils of tyranny have successfully gone on to establish new generations of Vietnamese-Americans. Never forgetting the country and people they left behind long ago, these new generations have continued to carry on their native South Vietnam traditions here in the U.S.
These customs have continued throughout the years due in large part to a particular sheet of cloth. What may seem to be an ordinary flag to some represents an entire culture to many. In cities throughout the country, this flag, the Vietnamese Freedom Flag, flies high alongside the American flag.
While the days of the flag representing the South Vietnam nation have come and gone, the three red bold bars running across the vivid yellow background have come to represent more than just a fallen country. Across the world, the flag has become a unanimous symbol of pride and hope for the Vietnamese heritage. Although the Freedom Flag can be seen flying above homes, gleaming in windows or draped from university ceilings throughout the nation, it cannot be seen here on campus.
Many Tech students have crossed under the numerous flags representing the world’s nations within the Flag Building. To the untrained eye the flags are unassuming and may go unnoticed, but for students of Vietnamese descent, one flag in particular creates quite a stir.
Hanging from the rafters of the Flag Building is the official symbol of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This solid red flag with a single yellow star in center represents the Northern Vietnam communist party and the current government in power over Vietnam today. For the majority of Vietnamese-Americans here at Tech, this flag hanging in the student services building represents the oppression, suffering and death of their forefathers who stood against the fascist regime during the Vietnam War.
In response, the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) has proposed the replacement of the current communist flag with the Freedom Flag of Vietnam to the executive board here at Tech.
“I hope that the current flag of Vietnam will be removed completely because of the pain and suffering it brings to Vietnamese-Americans. I hope that the Vietnamese-American students will be represented at Tech. It is not a matter of political differences because the Freedom/Heritage flag represents more than just the Republic of Vietnam. The flag represents the people,” said Le Hein Phan, VSA president and a third-year BME major.
“[The flag] stands for the sacrifices that were made along the journey of the Vietnamese to all corners of the world to escape the communist flag as they searched for freedom after the war. The Vietnam War led to the largest migratory of people from one country to the rest of the free world. I am the result of their sacrifices, and I certainly don’t want their sacrifices to be forgotten,” said Ahn Tran, Southeast Regional Director of the Vietnamese-American Heritage Foundation and a fourth-year ISyE major.
Though some members call for the complete removal of the current communist flag, other members in the organization feel that both flags should fly in order to represent the two cultures.
“While deep down I want only the Freedom Flag to fly, it is irrational to remove the current flag of Vietnam. While the communist flag is disliked greatly among the Vietnamese-American population, it still represents our people and our country today. Removing it is the same as cutting ties with our people at home. We must learn to forgive and accept. It is the only way to move forward. That being said, I would not mind seeing both flags fly together,” said Tam Van, a first-year BME major and future VSA treasurer.
Social issues such as the current one has even elicited the support of students who were not born into the Vietnamese-American community but who have become sympathetic to the ideas for which they stand. Students like first-year CE major Kiersten Chalhoub, who is of German and Lebanese descent, yet is the newest secretary of the VSA. While no decision has been made as of now, other VSA student organizations in the state have been successful in flying the Freedom Flag within the halls of their respective universities.
The VSA holds events on campus throughout the year to help provide Vietnamese-Americans with the opportunity to socialize and promote social awareness.


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