In the December issue of The Blaze magazine, we feature the powerful quintessential American story of Jim Diep, a man who escaped to the U.S. from Vietnam as a boy, became a successful businessman, and is raising a family of patriots.
Heavy nets infused with the stench of salt and fish concealed the 11-year-old boy hidden in the bottom of a rowboat as it pushed silently away from the dark South Vietnamese shore.
Jim Diep's older brothers paid in gold for his 1980 clandestine escape to Thailand. They feared he would disappear into an army of Vietnamese children sent to challenge Cambodia's invading Khmer Rouge five years after Saigon's fall.
Diep's parents weren't told about the escape. One slip could result in the whole family disappearing.
A clothing catalog from the Soviet Union had given young Diep a glimpse of the world beyond his war-torn country. He dreamed of the life he projected from the smiling catalog models dressed in crisp, Western clothing. They were never hungry, he imagined.
When Diep's brothers laid out his escape, it seemed like a boyhood adventure.
But as the sun rose over the Sea of Thailand, the fantasy shattered. The fishing net was thrown off and the skinny boy was hoisted onto a deck crowded body-to-body with 48 other refugees.
"All I see is water and sky, and I begin to cry like crazy," Diep says in clipped, accented English. "I knew it then I was alone. Now I knew I was never going home."
Thirty-one years later, the married father of three says the lesson of his story is not luck or bravery, but freedom and the American dream.
His story of getting to America, facing every imaginable obstacle, finding his wife, starting a successful business and raising a family with respect and love for their country is moving and important.
Jim's wife Cindy (pictured at right with Jim), who also escaped Vietnam as a child, expressed her family's love and belief in this country, telling The Blaze, "To be an American is a privilege. No one owes you anything. But you can accomplish anything if you work hard."
The Dieps say they've taught their children—Vicki, 19; Jimmy, 17; and Derek, 9—not to take freedom for granted and to appreciate education and hard work as blessings, not burdens.
"I don't care what other people have. I don't like to see people live like that," says Jim. "I know America give me a chance to live a better life."
Read their full inspiring story in the December issue of The Blaze magazine. Subscribe today to make sure you don't miss another issue.