A ‘leftover’ was the term used for kids whose mothers were Vietnamese and whose fathers were American soldiers. Andrew Nguyen grew up a leftover. He was born in March 1972 in Saigon. His mother, Tram ‘Kim’ Nguyen, had formed a relationship with Andrew’s father, Michael Strange, when he was stationed for his second tour of duty. Like many American GIs, Strange returned to the States after his tour ended, reports Task & Purpose.
When Andrew was 16 years old, sponsorship came through from the US Catholic Church in Newport News, Virginia, allowing him, his mother and his three half-siblings entry to the United States.
“We were happy that we left Vietnam to come to the United States because we knew it was a better place with opportunities for my family”, said Andrew.
Andrew graduated from High School, went to College, and gained a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Florida Atlantic University. He eventually got married, had two children, and became a police officer in Palm Beach.
Meanwhile Mike Strange who lives in Nashville, North Carolina, said he knew Kim Ngyuen was 4 months pregnant when he left Saigon, but he never forgot about her and the child. He tried to find them through the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1980, but because he didn’t have her given Vietnamese name, or the gender or date of birth of the child, he was fighting a losing battle.
DNA testing puts the pieces in place
It was Andrew’s son Matthew who eventually put all the pieces together and identified his paternal grandfather. He and his sister gave a DNA testing kit to their dad for his birthday. After identifying various relatives through the DNA test, Matthew got Strange’s number. He called his grandfather and they spoke for 10 minutes. That was followed with a Zoom call later that day for 2 hours. They ended the Zoom call with plans to meet in person.
Andrew, who had been hesitant about meeting his father, says he told Strange that finding him “had completed my chapter of finding out who my father is and hopefully I can have a relationship”.
As for Strange, he was thrilled to connect with his son. “We have talked every day. Sometimes two and three times a day since we first connected”, he said.
Father’s Day has new meaning, and the label of ‘leftover’ has lost its power. Andrew hopes sharing his story will “help a lot of GI children who never got the chance to find their fathers”.
Now that he’s found his, distance will never come between them again. Strange will drive 14 and a half hours from North Carolina to Florida this week to be with the son he lost and then found.
“I’ll be back down for Father’s Day”, he said.