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Vietnamese Youth Volunteers Reconnect 44 Years Later at the Red Cross

The volunteer group standing together.
The former volunteers standing in front of the American Red Cross National Headquarters.

From 1962 to 1975, youth volunteers with the Vietnam Red Cross served together to help injured people in need during the Vietnam War. After the war, the volunteers were forced to flee the country for their safety and find new homes. They had no idea that they would later reconnect on the internet and come together to commemorate the relationships they had built during the Vietnam War.

This past September, during their annual reunion, this group of more than 30 volunteers and their spouses visited the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the organization’s history. During their visit, we were honored to hear their stories of courage and selflessness. Here are some of the volunteers we met that day:

Lisa standing with her husband, Cuong.
Lisa Van (right) and her husband, Cuong Minh Huynh (left)

Meet Lisa Van and her husband Cuong Minh Huynh. Cuong started volunteering with the Vietnam Red Cross when he was 14 years old. As a volunteer, he helped people with their wounds, moved them to safe locations and used emergency first aid, often in dangerous circumstances. On multiple occasions, he remembers hearing bullets fly past him while the volunteers were out in the field. Although they were serving during a difficult time, they made sacrifices every day for the sake of injured persons. And the relationships they forged bonded them for life.

“They weren’t afraid to risk their lives to help soldiers and the village people,” Lisa said. “They stood strong and went out there not thinking about the dangers for themselves, but about helping others.”

Van Cao
Van Cao

Van Cao was also a high school student when she became a volunteer. She remembers how her family was accepting of her desire to help others, but wanted her to stay close to home for her safety. As a result, she wasn’t able to deploy as much as other volunteers, but she is thankful for the times she was able to go out and make a difference. During her 10 deployments, she supported poverty-stricken families and individuals during disasters, and she provided medications and immunizations.

“I felt good when I helped people, and that feeling lasts forever,” Van said.

Trong standing with his wife.
Trong (left) and Khang (right) Nguyen.

Trong Nguyen helped organize this year’s reunion and was joined by his wife Khang. He’s still amazed by how they were able to help people in need as youth volunteers, and how they can all come together today more than 40 years later.

“We were students who wanted to use our strength and energy to heal the damage from the war, and we did our best to do that,” Trong said.

Become a volunteer

Like this group of volunteers, you can make a difference at any age. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to find the right opportunity for you.