Retired Navy Capt. Paul Jacobs, to this day, remembers the message he got from his naval commander: “We’re going to have to send you back to rescue the Vietnamese Navy. We forgot ‘em.”
And back Jacobs went, to lead the largest single rescue effort ever by the United States – 30,000 South Vietnamese, many of whom would probably have been killed or imprisoned if left behind after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. This single effort not only saved lives, it began a new future for thousands of Vietnamese, who went on to become one of America’s greatest assets.
This decision that marked a new future for Vietnamese Americans will be the topic of Capt. Jacobs’ keynote address at the 14th Annual Asian Heritage Awards, celebrating Vietnamese achievement, Saturday, April 23, at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at 5998 Alcala Park, on the campus of the University of San Diego.
The annual awards ceremony, honored twice as a public service by the San Diego Press Club, commemorates the single largest refugee exodus to the United States – 1.5 million Vietnamese, many of whom went on to become leading doctors, entrepreneurs, scientists, government and military leaders and Hollywood film makers.
Honorees this year include Dr. Xuong Nguyen-Huu, a founding member of the UCSD faculty, Christina Cao, who landed in America as a frightened 17-year-old unable to speak the language, then rose to a position overseeing pharmaceutical operations for more than 50 hospitals; and Quyen Di Chuc Bui, who fled his past, then dedicated his life to preserving it as a lecturer in Vietnamese language, literature and culture at UCLA.
In addition to the Asian Heritage Awards, the Asian Heritage Society is hosting a conference earlier in the day to bring together Vietnamese Americans and Vietnam veterans to bond, share experiences and impart lessons for this and future generations. The conference is from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. The dinner that evening begins with a 5:30 p.m. reception.
Registration is required for both events because seating is limited. The morning conference is free and open to the public. To register for either, go to www.asianheritageawards.com.