Honor Guards : For Those Touched by War, Memorial Day Is Chance to Remember : A New Life

Tony Lam is a Buddhist from Vietnam, but Memorial Day has become an important tradition since his arrival in the United States.

The Westminster businessman honors the memory of Robert Burns, the man Lam, 53, calls “my best friend for 25 years.” Burns was Lam’s administrator during the early 1970s when Lam was in charge of stevedoring at the U.S. military installation at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.

Burns was also one of the Americans who sponsored Lam and his family when they fled Saigon during the turbulent days of April, 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army was laying siege to the city.

Every Memorial Day, Lam also remembers Robert Shidler, a retired Army colonel who died last year in Hawaii. Shidler, said Lam, was in charge of the Army Transportation Command at Cam Ranh Bay; he also agreed to sponsor the Lam family in their efforts to come to America. Lam flew to Hawaii to deliver Shidler’s eulogy.


“He was the kind of person who was deeply rooted in me,” said Lam.

Several of Lam’s relatives died in combat in Vietnam, and he remembers them and others who fought in that war as “valiant people who fought for freedom.”

When he looks at the new life he and his family have made in Westminster--a successful restaurant and college educations for his six children--he remembers specifically the old friends who helped them attain it.

“It really makes me feel that I have the obligation to think of them,” said Lam, “to be grateful that I’m here and safe and happy with my family.”