By Amy Anthony, Times Correspondent
In Print: Saturday, November 27, 2010
—————–As a teenager, Huy Truong remembers checking every piece of mail that arrived, hoping for good news from the U.S. Embassy.
His family had scraped by since the end of the Vietnam War, when Truong’s father was shipped off to a “reeducation camp” because he had worked with the American forces. The father returned a decade later, and the family opened a coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City — a challenging business to sustain in a communist country that rationed sugar.
His parents knew Truong and his brother had limited futures in Vietnam. In order to attend college, students must pass a rigorous exam similar to the SAT — but part of the points needed to pass are based on the student’s family background.
“If a student’s family members fought on the American side during the war, a student needed more points to pass,” Truong said.
So when the family had the chance to apply to immigrate to the United States in 1991, they eagerly began the application process that would involve interviews, medical exams and years of waiting for that letter from the U.S. Embassy.
“We were very excited,” Truong said. “My parents knew it would be an opportunity for my brother and me.”
And in 1993, opportunity brought the family to Pasco County.• • •
Truong was 19 when the family moved to the United States, joining an uncle in Holiday. Their journey to Tampa International Airport took them through Bangkok and New York City.
“It was my first time seeing the modernized world,” Truong recalled of his layover in Bangkok. “It was my first time seeing sliding doors. I walked back and forth for I don’t know how long until a security guard told me to leave the door alone.”
After five months in Holiday, the family got their own place in New Port Richey. Truong got a job as a dishwasher at Leverock’s seafood restaurant. Although he could not speak or read English very well, Truong had always been good at math and he tested into the 11th grade. He graduated from Gulf High School after taking summer classes and working with a guidance counselor to transfer course credits from Vietnam.
He enrolled at St. Petersburg College to improve his English skills, then was accepted to the University of South Florida, where he majored in computer engineering because he “fell in love with computers.”
“I wanted to be a mathematician, but then I took summer classes and a classmate who was very kind taught me how to use computers,” Truong said.
He graduated from USF in August 1998 with a 3.96 GPA — “one B,” Truong lamented with a laugh.
That fall he went to a career fair and left his resume with a representative from Lockheed Martin. The company called back the next day.
“I guess my GPA impressed them,” he joked.
• • •
Lockheed Martin hired Truong as a software engineer for its Orlando office, where his work ethic inspired his colleagues.
“He impressed us from the first day,” said Debra Palmer, vice president of enterprise logistics solutions at Lockheed Martin. “His energy level is infectious.”
Within his first year, Truong was nominated for the Galaxy Award, Lockheed Martin’s most prestigious honor.
“There was a fancy (awards) dinner at Disney,” Palmer recalled. “I was there waiting for Huy, and finally he came in, buttoning his shirt. When I asked where he was, he said he couldn’t leave work because there was an important test.
“This is a perfect example of Huy,” she said. “He took his tuxedo with him to the lab.”
Truong won the award that night.
• • •
Now 36, Truong lives in Orlando and is still at Lockheed Martin, working on the classified Cyber Test Range Program, a virtual network that researchers will use to test and improve the security of computer systems. He hopes to someday teach community college, recalling how formative that time was for him as a student.
“Coming to the U.S. has allowed me to pursue my goals,” Truong said, “and I want to help others pursue theirs.”
In 2000, Truong was selected to work on his first classified program, a position that required him to become a U.S. citizen. Truong was excited at the prospect. His colleagues were excited, too.
“The day I told Deb (Palmer) about my citizenship, she came to the lab with about 20 people,” Truong said. “They had a giant cake and it was a big celebration. It means so much to me that my citizenship means so much to others.”
His high school sweetheart in Vietnam, Thuyha Pham, also joined him in America.
The couple had remained in touch over the years, and after he graduated from college, Truong returned to Vietnam to visit her.
“I arrived around 11 p.m. and I went to see her first thing,” Truong recalled. “She was surprised and crying. I knew at that moment I wanted to marry her and that nobody else would love me as much as she did.”
The couple wed in 1999 and had their daughter, Kaitlyn, two months ago.
And because his little girl will grow up in America, Truong said, “I know she will have a better life.”
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Vientiane – A Lao-European hydropower company has allocated 34 million dollars to relocate 700 families affected by its dam site in south-eastern Laos, media reports said Wednesday.
Theun-Hinboun Power Company has already resettled 410 families from seven villages near its dam site on the Gnouang River in Khammouane province, south-east Laos, the Vientiane Times reported.
‘We will start resettlement of the remaining five villages (313 families) by February and will finish in April or May,’ said Surapha Viravong, deputy site manager of the project’s social and environmental division.
The 34 million dollars will be spent on house construction and land clearance for farming for the relocated families, in line with an agreement made between the investors and the government.
Laos, a mountainous, land-locked country that is rich in water resources, has already built 14 hydro-electric dams and plans to construct another 20 by the year 2020.
The dams pose serious threats to the environment and people’s livelihoods, forcing projects to include compensation clauses and assure sustainable practices in their agreements with the Lao government.
Theun-Hinboun, which already has one hydropower plant in Borikhamxay province, is building an expansion project in Khammouane.
The Khammouane plant, which is 50 per cent complete, will begin commercial operation in July 2012.
The company is 60-per-cent owned by the state-run Electricite du Laos, with Norway’s Statkraft SF and GMS Lao holding 20 per cent each.
A large number of overseas Vietnamese and representatives from the Vietnamese Community in Laos, the Vietnamese embassy and various agencies and Lao organisations participated in the meeting.
The Vietnamese Ambassador to Laos, Ta Minh Chau expressed his gratitude to the Lao people for their sacrifices, courage and determination that has strengthened the special traditional relationship between the two countries.
The delegation also presented 20 gifts to the families of beneficiaries and visited many historical, relic sites in Laos and the place where the late President Ho Chi Minh lived and worked in Thailand.
This was the first pilgrimage by of the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers to revisit their former battlefields in Laos, and was supported by thousands of people in both countries. A second will take place later from December 19-26.
Before leaving for Laos, the delegation lit incense and made offerings at the Hanoi Monument for Fallen Soldiers, visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and donated VND50 million and 2 tonnes of goods to flood victims in the central region.