An Lac Orphans Reunite at Fort Benning

As the anniversary of Operation Babylift approaches, reunions are taking place across the country and the world. Adoptees from An Lac joined Betty Tisdale in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Board member and adoptee Jared Rehberg blogs about his experience:
It had been 15 years since the last An Lac Orphanage Reunion I attended. For many adoptees, this was their first reunion in 35 years.
The last time we were together was in Saigon, Vietnam in an orphanage called An Lac, “Happy Place.”  We gathered in Columbus, Georgia to say thank you to Betty Tisdale and honor her life work.  Adoptees flew in from around the country to meet the woman who cared for them and worked hard to help ensure them a better life in the U.S.
We loaded city buses donated by the city of Columbus to visit the grave site of An Lac’s founder, Madame Vu Ngai. Madame Vu Ngai travelled from north Vietnam finding orphans on the street and bringing them to Saigon. The story of An Lac’s creation and the journey Madame Ngai took to open An Lac was just the beginning of so many missing pieces of my past.
I know I will never know everything, but the small nuggets of history will remain close to my heart and mind for the rest of my life. Our group stopped by the Fort Benning airfield where our planes landed with crying babies and the hope for a better life and for many better health.
We got a short tour of the grade school that was once a nursery for sick and well babies from An Lac. I paused to remember all the volunteers that cared for me and the babies that never left the base.
The final stop was at the new Fort Bennning museum. Betty Tisdale was presented with words of praise, historic accounts and the official announcement of Betty Tisdale Day in Columbus, Georgia on March 27th. There was an emotional story shared by one of the army soldiers in 1975. He spoke about the time he spent in Vietnam playing with the children of foster homes and orphanages. When the U.S. left Vietnam, he recalls missing the time he shared with them. The news came in April of 1975 that many children were being sent to his base. He was so happy to be part of caring for the children of An Lac.

Betty was surprised by a representative from Johnson & Johnson who came to honor her life work. Many years ago, Betty would call Johnson & Johnson for diapers and supplies for the orphanage. She never stopped calling, the children were her priority. Johnson & Johnson came through and delivered her much needed supplies. Johnson & Johnson gave the adoptees a special copy of the company credo as a reminder of their commitment to every human being.
The evening closed with a banquet filled with delicious southern food, more stories and tons of pictures. I shared a special moment with Betty when I took to the stage to perform a song I wrote about my journey as an adoptee, “Waking Up American.”
I’m so glad I came down to honor someone so special and inspirational in my life. I always look forward to hearing from Betty and see the smile on her face when I call her mom #2.
As I left for the airport I was happy to know that I made a few new friends with whom I share a special piece of American history. Thanks to social media websites like Facebook, we will be sharing pictures and stories for many years to come.
To see news coverage of the Operation Babylift An Lac reunion, visit the website!
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