It was early May of this year when he was pulled aside into a room and given the news that would change his life. It was the day 22-year-old True Vang had nervously anticipated for months which had finally arrived. His fate was sealed as he was told that he had been selected to be deployed to Iraq.
Despite the mental preparation that he had practiced over the months, thoughts and questions filled his head as he tried to imagine the future ahead of him. The young soldier would need to draw from the strength of his will.
True Vang was in high school when he made the decision to join the U.S. Marines Corps. His group of high school friends often talked about their post-high school plans which ranged from college to entrance into the workforce. Although some of his friends brushed against the idea of joining the military, Vang knew that his dream of traveling and creating friendships with individuals worldwide was certain to take him into the U.S. Marines.
In April of 2004, Vang left his home and life in Saint Paul, and stepped into the military life of travel, adventure, and hard work. Across three years, Vang found himself in California, North Carolina, Korea, Thailand, and Japan.
Vang exuberantly revealed that his time away gave him opportunities of a lifetime, such as scuba diving in the ocean waters of Asia and exploring the life and cultures of a world far from where he grew up. However, at the same time, the hardest aspect about being in the Marines was “not being able to be home whenever you wanted to.” In the three years that Vang was in the Marines, he was only able to return home 4 times–the fourth was this late August, his visit home before leaving for his assignment in Iraq.
The eldest child of his parents Bee Vang and Chia Xiong, Vang played an influential role in his family whether he was at home or away. Vang explained that his younger siblings looked up to him and that “they know it’s a scary role,” however they saw his commitment and determination and drew from his leadership, looking up to him as a role model. Vang often called home or received phone calls from his family as they were committed to update each other on their lives. Vang’s call home in May, however, was quite different from any call home that he had made in the past.
The response that he received from the other end of the line was one of mixed feelings. “They were scared but supportive,” Vang explained. Vang understood his family’s fears. He himself was unsure of what would happen in Iraq, but the support that he received was all that he could have asked for. “They lightened my load,” he said. “They were there for me.”
The responsibility and life that followed the news of his assignment, indeed, was one that required extreme commitment and work on his part. Support from friends and family was all that he needed.
His life became consumed with non-stop training. His routine involved early mornings and long, grueling hours–at times requiring him to endure 20 hour days. In addition to hours of strenuous physical training, he went through a process of learning, handling, and shooting different types of weapons, as well as attending school. When asked about his moments of relaxation during this busy period, he laughed and commented that his favorite down time was to “study and sleep.”
Vang had planned to come home in late June to join in the festivities of the Annual Saint Paul Sports Tournament, however, his assignment delayed his return until late August. When August finally arrived, Vang was excited to return home to Minnesota, expressing that he most desired “spending as much time as I can with my family, just to be around their presence.”
With a heavy heart, Vang departed for Iraq on September 24th. Those who know him will think of him and send their thoughts out to their friend, relative, and loved one. For those who do not know him, he might just be another single Marine in a mass of many who serve his nation.
“No matter what, stand by me, support me.”
Vang shed light on the inner thoughts and feelings that linger within the many men and women who serve in the military when he explained, “the biggest thing that gets people down when they’re over there is that people here are not supporting them; it breaks morale and motivation.” Although what life has to hold in Iraq is unknown, Vang’s mental strength is unmoved. Many may look at someone in Vang’s place and feel the want to thank and commend his contributions, on his part, he instead turns the gratitude back and thanks his parents and family for their support, and friends for always being there when he needed someone to talk to.
He serves us in battle, but we hold the power to serve him in spirit, whether we know it or not.