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Comments made by gracevt

Camp Pendleton's Tent City Housed 50,000 Vietnamese Refugees


My mother, Lida and I were some of the many civilian volunteers in 1975 at the Camp Pendleton Vietnamese Relocation Camps. We first worked with the Catholic Counsel helping to connect refugees with potential sponsors. Long lines of individuals brought in contact information, and we volunteers telephoned each contact to verify sponsors, locations and we also would report any safety concerns regarding people's placement.

During summer vacation, since I was a teacher, I then volunteered for the American Red Cross, and taught preschool classes held on wooden decks under large shade oaks and eucalyptus trees. Marines would kindly lead the children marching through the tent camps, accompanied by adults who would sing with them as they walked. We sat together with picture stories, chants, songs, and creative movement, making connections across languages.

Another teacher who was Vietnamese waited every day as the buses arrived from El Toro Air Base to meet arriving refugees, trying to locate her missing parents. Much later she was finally reunited with her family.

The churches in nearby San Clemente sponsored many families and children began school. Their mothers volunteered and constantly prepared delicious Vietnamese egg rolls for everyone. These memories are vivid, as I contemplate the pain - physical and emotional displacement and new hope occurring simultaneously for so many people.

April 29, 2010 at 1:35 p.m. ( | suggest removal )