From Sea to Sea

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sinh Tho Nguyen has paved his own way.

He’s not asking anybody for anything. He has saved enough money to take him across America, “shore to shore” – on foot.

“I’m walking across America to honor those who served,” Nguyen said with a broad smile. “When I’ve gone into VA hospitals and seen those who came home with the deep visible scars of war — people of all ages and of all colors — I wanted to do something to honor them and I thought, ‘What can I do?’ and I thought to do this. To walk across America – ‘from shore to shore’ – 2,500 miles to honor them.”

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An incredible journey for anyone but even more incredible for Nguyen who is Vietnamese. “Vietnamese American” and he speaks of his new country with so much passion and pride that tears fill his eyes.

“I love America,” he said. “America is everything. I have solid faith in America. But there are going to be tough times, difficult times and many challenges but here we have freedom. True freedom. American sends a strong message around the world. She is faithful to us.”

Nguyen stopped along busy U.S Highway 231 Thursday to talk for a few minutes, but he was more interested in talking about his country and those who have served and are serving then about his own journey.

“I came to America in 1992,” he said. “I was a war boy. I came here by way of the ODP, Orderly Departure Program, that permitted the immigration of Vietnamese refugees to America. I wanted this so much.”

Nguyen didn’t come to American seeking great riches. He came in anticipation of enjoying the freedoms that come with being an American. And, he came to serve.

Nguyen served several years in the National Guard and five years in the active Army in Maryland and South Korea.

Then, he found a job where could be successful and was happy as a water meter reader in Fort Worth, Texas. But he felt like there was more he should do for his country.

“I had this idea to walk across America to honor those who served, but I was told, ‘You can’t do that. It’s impossible.’ But it was what I wanted to do.”

Nguyen worked and saved the money that he thought he would need. Then, he began to look for someone to go with him.

“A driver is what I needed,” he said. “Someone to drive my car ahead of me and someone to take care of things while I walked. I had to have someone that would be willing to sleep in the car and drink out of a faucet and eat what I ate.”

That was a tall order and one that Nguyen had difficultly filling. But finally, a fellow water meter reader named David signed on.

The journey began two weeks ago, when Nguyen stepped from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic Beach, Fla Hopefully and expectantly, it will end when Nguyen wades into the waters of the Pacific Ocean in time for him to be home for Christmas.

“At the end of today (Thursday), I will have walked 350 miles,” he said. “It’s not been easy, but what our soldiers do is much more difficult. Some days, I’m physically tired and the mental part of me will say, ‘It’s okay. Go! Go!’ and another day my mind calls for rest, but my body will say, ‘I’m ready. I can to this.’”

The trek from “shore to shore” will take Nguyen, as planned through eight states, — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

And, every step of the way, Nguyen said he will be thankful that he is an American. His belief is that the way to world peace is through America.

“Diplomacy is the way,” he said. “Not war. If every person would write one letter to someone in another country, and we really got to know each other, that would make a difference. Letters not troops. War is a killing machine. We need to meet on common ground, not on battle grounds. That is what I believe. But until then, I want to honor those who believe in the cause of freedom and make it possible for people like me. An American.”