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SANTA ANA : Earning His Wish to Be a Family Man

Yen Truong has been juggling three jobs since 1982 with one goal in mind--to bring family members he has not seen for 13 years to Orange County from Vietnam.

On Monday to Friday, he works as a deliveryman for the Orange County Public Library from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the evening from Monday to Thursday, he clerks for the Anaheim Library Department from 5 to 9 p.m. Truong also moonlights as a cashier for a Garden Grove gas station Friday to Sunday from 4:15 p.m. to midnight.

Truong’s hard work will pay off this Friday, when he will be reunited with his mother, wife, two children and a sister-in-law, whom he last saw in 1978.

“I’m so happy that I want to tell the news to everybody I see,” Truong, 51, said in Vietnamese on Tuesday. The long work hours also helped “because I didn’t want a lot of free time for needless worry about them.”

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His family was told in November that they would be allowed to leave for the United States through the Orderly Departure Program, which allows Vietnamese citizens to leave if they are sponsored by a relative here. In March, Truong sent the program about $5,000 to pay for his family’s air fare, he said. They left Vietnam last week for Thailand, where they will board a plane that will arrive at Los Angeles International Airport Friday morning.

The family includes his 70-year-old mother, Mai On; 49-year-old wife, Anh Banh; 23-year-old daughter, Huong Truong; 19-year-old son, Phong Truong; and Kieu Banh, a sister-in-law in her 30s.

Although Truong didn’t receive word until last November that his family would join him, he has been actively preparing for their arrival for three years. In 1988, the year he became an American citizen, he bought a four-bedroom house. Except for beds, it remains barren--Truong said he wants his mother and wife to furnish the house.

“Who comes over first should try with all his might to (fulfill) his duty to his family so that when they can come over, they won’t feel forlorn,” Truong said.

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The reunion will end a struggle to bring the family out of Vietnam that has lasted since then-Saigon fell in 1975.

When the Communists came to power in the south, Truong owned a steel-melting factory, he said. Officials charged him as a capitalist who cooperated with the South Vietnamese and U.S. governments, seized his factory and home, and sentenced him to a year in prison. On his release, he looked for a way to leave.

The chance came in 1977 when Truong tried to escape on a fishing boat, but he was caught and sentenced to six months in prison, he said. But another opportunity came in another fishing boat a year later, and Truong successfully made it out of the country and landed in Thailand. He arrived in Orange County in June, 1979, after being sponsored by a friend in Westminster.

While living with the friend, Truong said, he attended Santa Ana College and received an associate’s degree in computer science in 1982.

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Truong said he will celebrate his family arrival’s by taking a vacation from all three of his jobs for the first time, he said. Plans include a trip to Disneyland.

“I never went there because I wanted to save it as a reminder to me to work hard to bring (my family),” Truong said. “When I first got here, I sent a postcard of Disneyland home to my children and told them that was where I will take them as soon as they arrive. Now, I will.”


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