From a distance it looked like the bright orange tip of a cigarette burning, but as we drew closer the ember took on a new form as more and more colors began to appear. Looking downward, we started to see neon lights as they illuminated the skyline. Beneath the glow, the packed city streets filled with pedestrians looked like an army of marching ants moving in every direction. This was the view of Singapore from above, while the Boeing 747 began its final descent to the runway.

After two long years, during which we escaped the Vietnam jungle, crossed the battlefield of Cambodia and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand, our family was a step closer to freedom. Right before the wheels met the tarmac at the Singapore airport; I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, happiness, and fulfillment I struggle to express in words. Some thoughts which ran through my mind were: we are free; free from poverty, free from worry, but most of all, free from Communism. We had entered the free world. The lights gave hope that our family’s journey to freedom was about to be realized.

I can’t imagine what went through my parents heads that night as they saw us safe and together at last, two years after we’d embarked on our journey; one small step from realizing their dreams.

As we finally touched down in Singapore, I saw my joy reflected on their faces. Together we survived the battlefield, reunited as a family after the kidnapping. We made it. My parents goal to watch their kids grow up in an environment where we were free to chase whatever our hearts desired, was now close to becoming reality. It hadn’t been easy. They experienced many struggles, faced hardships, and made great sacrifices along the way.

In 1984 our family landed in Minnesota, the state we called home for three decades, and 2014 marks the thirty year anniversary of our liberation. As I remember the past, tears of gratitude roll down my cheeks. If it weren’t for my parent’s actions all those years ago, who knows where I would be today.

All these years later, I often reflect on my journey. I’ve had failures, my ups, and my downs. There were many adversities and challenges along the way, but through perseverance I found my true passion. The passion is to inspire, change, move, and positively affect people’s lives. My parents proved great things aren’t accomplished without taking the first step. In thirty years of living in the land of the free, I haven’t once told them thank you. Such a bad son.

Mom and Dad, I want the world to know just how grateful I am for your actions. Thank you for bravely taking that first step. Thank you for not listening to the naysayers when they told you it was too risky. Thank you for following your hearts when others said you would never make it. Thank you for reminding me where I came from whenever I stepped out of line.

This blog is dedicated to my loving parents, brother, sisters, and my older cousin who now live down in Florida. Thank you for your love and support. We made it! God bless, and I love you all.