Viet Xuan Luong, the U.S. Army’s newest general, was nine years old when his family fled Vietnam in 1975 — the year the U.S. also withdrew.
Today, the combat-tested Luong pinned his first star in a ceremony at Fort Hood, Texas — the first Vietnamese-born general in the U.S. military.
It’s a certain historical marker, nearly 40 years from the date when the U.S. military airlifted the last Americans from Saigon, not to mention a historic personal achievement for one of that nation’s children — Luong was one of eight kids in a family outside of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. His father served in the Vietnamese military and “was always away.”
“My family made the escape the day before the fall of Saigon,” he is quoted saying in Military Times. “We barely escaped.”
He drew a proud crowd of Vietnamese-Americans in Texas today.
It’s also a historical marker that Gen. Luong will help the U.S. military clean up after its longest-running war, in Afghanistan. He has commanded troops in combat — leading a battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers in Iraq, and the 101st Airborne’s 3rd Brigade Combat team in Afghanistan.
He is preparing to return to Afghanistan as part of a Train, Advise and Assist Command, the Times says. U.S. combat forces are leaving at the end of 2016.