“What is a story you’ve been dying to tell?”
In a now-archived AskReddit post, Redditor average_smaverage opened up a platform for others in the community to share some of their most interesting experiences. Some wrote about people who had made lasting impressions on them, while others talked about good deeds they’d done but hadn’t been able to talk about in person without coming off as bragging.
One Redditor by the name of nwebb92 decided to use this opportunity to talk about their Hmong father’s escape from a Communist Laos.
“This is my father’s story,” they began.
“In 1975 he was 18 years old. The Lao Monarchy had fallen and communism had taken over. My family and almost everyone who was Hmong (minority group in Laos) had allied themselves with the Royal Lao Army & the American CIA. When the Kingdom of Laos fell, the new communist government released a statement saying ‘They would exterminate the Hmong people to the last root.'”
This spelled trouble for their father and the rest of the family. “Because my grandfather was a ranked official under General Vang Pao (the Hmong Leader), he feared for the life of his family. When evacuation took place in mid May 1975, my grandparents and their 11 children were not allowed to board the planes, as all the aircraft were packed to full capacity. They were told more planes would be coming, but none returned. So my grandfather decided that the only way to save his family was to travel by foot into Thailand.”
Thus, their family’s arduous — and extremely dangerous — journey began. “While traveling through the jungles of Laos, my family was with other groups of Hmong people. A family in the group had three kids who were no older than two years old.”
“Halfway through the trek, the patriarch of the other family comes to my dad and ask if my dad could help carry his son who barely knew how to crawl. My dad said yes, but my grandfather said if the baby started to cry or soldiers were seen my father would no longer carry the baby — meaning my dad’s life would come first. The other man agreed, as it was a desperate time.”
Everything was going well until a chance encounter would change their father’s life forever. “As they made their way across the jungle, they stumbled across group of Communist soldiers. Shots were fired and everyone ran. My dad remembers the father of the baby being shot dead and another child about 10 or 11 dying in front of him. My dad continued to run with the baby in his arms.”
“After running for a while, my dad was completely separated from his family. He was alone with a baby. He walked through the jungle towards Thailand, sobbing, thinking his family were all dead.”
Even though he believed the rest of his family had been killed, he pressed forward, baby in tow. “After a few days, he stumbled across a herd of four elephants. They were trumpeting very loudly. As my dad moved closer, he saw that an elephant had died and her front leg was destroyed — most likely due to a mine.”
Unperturbed, he persevered, doing his best to keep the baby alive and well. “He carried on, but the baby he was carrying was very hungry and crying. My father had been feeding the baby water and things he could find from the jungle floor.”
Suddenly, his worst nightmare came true. “My dad’s worst fear is realized when he sees three communist soldiers. They can hear the baby and run towards my dad. My dad hid the baby under a bush and left. As my dad walked away, he realized he couldn’t forgive himself for leaving the baby, so he returned. He found himself in front the soldiers. They had him on his knees and told him that they are going to kill him and the child. My dad pleads with them in Lao. Luckily my dad was carrying my grandparents’ silver, so he bargains with them and they escape with their lives.”
Now safe from the communist soldiers, the pair reach the border, freedom within sight. “Once at the Thai/Lao border, he had to cross the Mekong River to the other side. The current was fast and the water was murky. Because he couldn’t swim with the baby with him, he decided to build a makeshift raft. As he searched for supplies, he came upon a mass grave of 20 to 30 dead Hmong people by the riverbed. Panicked, he decided to head further south.”
Unfortunately, he was ambushed before he could carry out his plan. “But yet again soldiers emerged, and the only thing he could do was jump into the river. So he plunged in with the baby. As he struggled to make his way to the other side, they opened fire at him in the water. Luckily, the strong current helped him, taking him further from the soldiers.”
The pair escaped from certain death a second time, only to be met with another life-threatening situation. “He finally entered Thailand, only to find that the baby is not breathing. My dad tries desperately to revive the baby. He tried everything, finally he smacking the baby on the back a couple of times. Miraculously, it comes back to life.
Having saved the baby’s life yet again, they continued their journey to safety. “They walked on, finally arriving at a refugee camp. My dad couldn’t find his parents or siblings anywhere. He cried, thinking they have died. Luckily, my dad finds his uncle (grandpa’s younger 1st cousin) there. My dad hands the baby over to his aunt to breastfeed, since she too has an infant.”
In a miraculous twist of fate, he was reunited with the family he thought he’d lost. “My grandparents arrived at the same exact camp about two weeks later. My dad had never been so happy in his life to see his family, although he discovered his brother had been shot and later died from his wounds.”
The Redditor concluded their tale with an update on how their dad was doing. “My father is now 57 years old and he has four kids of his own, with a boy due this month on the 19th.”
And the infant whose life he heroically saved? “The baby he carried into Thailand was adopted by his uncle and aunt. I now call him Uncle Johnny. Uncle Johnny got married and now has three kids of his own.”
Truly, this man embodied the absolute definition of heroism, saving this baby’s life multiple times at the risk of his own. As Robert Green Ingersoll once said:
“When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death – that is heroism.”