Tag: Operation Babylift

In Memoriam: Lyly Koenig Mendez, Operation Babylift Adoptee

Lyly Koenig Mendez

Against The Grain was saddened to learn of the passing of a very special member of the ATG family Lyly Koenig Mendez. Lyly was an orphan brought to the United States through Operation Babylift and whose story is highlighted in ATG’s documentary feature, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.

A great supporter of ATG and the arts, Lyly grew up in Festus, MO, graduated from Crystal City High School in 1993 and earned degrees from the University of Missouri at St. Louis and the Miami International University of Art and Design. She worked in TV and film production, was a skilled graphic designer and fashion designer who also had her work featured in ATG’s 2010 Fashion for a Passion. In addition, she was a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams in the 1990s as well as the San Diego Chargers from 2000-2001.

She died on January 20, 2015, near Houston, TX, at the age of 40, after an eight-year fight against breast cancer. Throughout, she never let the disease take her joy, humor, creativity, compassion, humanity and passion for family, friends and life. A shining example of what it means to “Go Against The Grain,” this memorial artistic scholarship was created in her name specifically to support talented emerging graphic/fashion design students like her and dedicated with love as a reminder of her unique spirit and legacy…to #LiveLikeLyly.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured a special article on Lyly on February 2, 2015.



February Sales of Operation Babylift to Support Adoptee DC Wolfe

The Against The Grain family’s first members were not only its founders but also the adoptees featured in the award-winning documentary film Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, directed and produced by our president and co-founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. The poignant film, a 5 year passion project that was completed and released in 2009, follows the personal journeys of the orphans who were were airlifted from war-torn Vietnam to the United States. It was this film that inspired the founding of Against The Grain and our support of poverty-stricken orphanages in Asia.

DC Wolfe
Executive Producers and ATG Co-Founders Tammy Nguyen Lee and George Lee (center) with several of the interviewed adoptees of Operation Babylift. DC Wolfe is pictured far left.

DC Wolfe, an actor and writer, is one of the adoptees who is featured in the film. Although very private by nature, he openly shared his intimate and painful story to help others better understand the unique situation that adoptees face.  He has supported Operation Babylift by attending numerous screenings and even speaking at Asian American Leadership and Educational Conference (AAALEC) panel at Southern Methodist University to discuss the film and his personal story.

The ATG family was saddened to learn that DC is currently battling cancer. In an effort to return the love and support that he has shown for many years in sharing his powerful journey and raising awareness about adoption, Tammy and the ATG Board would like to donate 100% of all proceeds from sales of Operation Babylift DVDs during the entire month of February to help offset DC’s medical costs.

If you would like to show your support, please click here to purchase your own copy of Operation Babylift. As you reflect on the message of love throughout the month of February, we encourage you to share the love and spread the message of hope that is embodied in the film by also considering copies of Operation Babylift for family and friends. We thank you so much for your continued support of our mission and hope that through our programming and community outreach efforts, you are not only enlightened and educated about Asian American culture, arts and issues but also inspired to do your part, in any measure, to make life better for others. #beCAUSE.

Read more Against The Grain posts featuring DC Wolfe and Operation Babylift:

2013 Operation Babylift Reflections by Jared Rehberg

PageImage-497879-2533595-Operation_BabyliftEvery year during this week, I take a moment to reflect on my past. Life gets hectic with work, hobbies, friends and family. Thirty-eight years ago this week, I left the An Lac orphanage and South Vietnam on an airplane to begin my new life in America. This historic week would soon be call Operation Babylift. It would take 25 years before I would be reunited with other Vietnamese adoptees and begin to understand what happened so many years ago. After all the talk about politics and opinions, there was still over 3,000 children who were relocated around the world. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed connecting with Vietnamese adoptees around the world. I found comfort sharing familiar experiences and knowing that there was someone out there to talk to when I was in need of a shoulder or ear. Thanks to Facebook, we have groups and a mini address book of connections. After the reunion in Baltimore in 2000, I began writing and performing songs about my adoption experience. My life’s work led me to meeting Tammy Nguyen Lee and helping to produce her documentary film Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. I will never forget our time together traveling, filming and screening our film. I learned so much more about my past and met so many wonderful people who share a common history. Today, I’m proud to be on the ATG Board for my 4th year servicing as Outreach Director. Weeks like this remind me of our ATG mission and my personal inspiration to give back to the Asian American community and continue to produce music and tell stories from my journey.

I wrote a special song for my Vietnamese adoptee brothers and sisters called Something to Save. You’re not alone. Our stories will be shared from generation to generation. Listen here: http://jaredrehberg.virb.com/music

Check out the film and learn more about Babylift: http://www.thebabylift.com/

PageImage-497879-2532745-13551_180274528873_112545978873_2778860_7654472_nOPERATION BABYLIFT: THE LOST CHILDREN OF VIETNAM tells the significant, yet untold story of the $2 million U.S. initiative that airlifted over 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country from the impending threat of the Communist regime. These adoptees grew up facing unique challenges in America, including prejudice overshadowed by a controversial war and cultural identity crisis. Featuring compelling and insightful interviews of the volunteers, parents, and organizations directly involved, the documentary takes a contemporary look at Operation Babylift and its relevance to international adoption today.

Mineral Wells Index: Update of Vietnam Memorial Wall replica is Saturday

June 3, 2011

Mineral Wells Index

By Chris Agee |cagee@mineralwellsindex.com
The only permanent Vietnam Memorial Wall outside of Washington, D.C., located at the National Vietnam War Museum on U.S. Highway 180 just east of Mineral Wells, will be updated for the second time Saturday with the names of three Marines and three Army soldiers added.

“We’ve already had the panels changed to reflect the new names,” said Jim Vines, commander of AmVets Post 133 in Mineral Wells.

The names will be unveiled at the ceremony, which is open to the public at no cost and begins at 10:30 a.m.

Vines said museum officials are required to wait one year after names are added to the original wall before the same names can be added to the local wall, meaning the people honored at Saturday’s event have been displayed in the nation’s capital since 2010.

Five more names added to the original wall this year will be etched into the replica wall next year, Messinger said.

The local wall, approximately half the size of the original, was unveiled May 30, 2009, and originally contained 70 panels and 58,260 names.

Vines said in addition to the unveiling of the names, he is excited to welcome guests from Operation Babylift to the celebration.

According to NVWM Treasurer Jim Messinger, Operation Babylift was established near the end of the Vietnam War to rescue scores of children left orphaned after years of battle in the country.

In total, the operation resulted in about 4,000 children being flown to safety, primarily to America but also to Canada and various European countries. Messinger said all of the rescued children were assigned homes and adoptive parents before landing in their new location.

Unfortunately, Messinger said, the second plane leaving South Vietnam crashed, killing 130 of the 300 on board.

In addition to the negative press assigned to the operation following the crash, Messinger said controversy arose at the time concerning whether some children were taken against their parent’s wishes. In the long run, however, the operation has largely been viewed as a great success.

Three speakers from Operation Babylift will be the first to address the crowd Saturday, according to Messinger, and eight other speakers will take part in an afternoon exhibit at the museum’s visitor’s center.

The guest list includes, in addition to now-grown rescued orphans and family members of those lost in the rescue plane crash, many speakers who were instrumental in making the operation successful.

Air Force veterans responsible for flying the rescue missions, Tammy Nguyen Lee, the producer and director of a feature film about the operation, Olen Bautwell, a crash survivor, and his wife, Louise, a Clark Air Force Base Babylift coordinator are all scheduled to speak.

Additionally, Vietnam veteran and artist Doc Bernie Duff will unveil an Operation Babylift painting which he will donate to the museum and Thuy Smith, the international president of the Amerasian Foundation will be on hand to address the crowd, expected to number between 500 and 1,000 people.

Operation Babylift’s presentation will be moderated by Lana Noone, author of the book “Global Mom,” which recounts her family’s experience adopting multiple orphans through the operation.

Another big draw for the event is an appearance by Elvis Presley tribute artist Kraig Parker before he goes on to perform that night at a concert in the Mineral Wells High School auditorium.

Parker will sing “America the Beautiful,” Vines said, adding both Presley and Parker were very supportive of veterans.

Presley himself served in the military, stationed at Fort Hood before his deployment to Germany, and, fittingly, another event scheduled for Saturday is an aerial display featuring helicopters from the same military post.

The event will be catered by Meals on Wheels, Messinger said, and the menu will feature pigs in a blanket.

Appearances by Patriot Guard Riders and a parachute jump by former U.S. Army Golden Knight and double-amputee Dana Bowman, of Weatherford, are also planned for the event.

Two attractions scheduled for Saturday’s ceremony have been cancelled due to conflicting schedules, according to Messinger.

The Liberty Bell will not make an appearance due to a military funeral scheduled for the same day and the bagpiper scheduled to perform during the invocation will be unable to attend.

OPERATION BABYLIFT: THE LOST CHILDREN OF VIETNAM to Screen at 35th Anniversary Celebration of Operation Babylift

DALLAS, TX –The 35th anniversary celebration of Operation Babylift will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 24 at the New Jersey Vietnam Era Educational Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. Dallas-based nonprofit organization ATG Against the Grain Productions will provide a community screening of its award-winning documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam at 1 p.m. in the Testimony Theater. Filmmaker Tammy Nguyen Lee will join adoptee and associate producer Jared Rehberg in a Q&A following.

Operation Babylift is Tammy Nguyen Lee’s feature directorial debut and tells the story of how more than 2,500 orphans were airlifted out of Vietnam during the last days of the Vietnam War and their tumultuous journey growing up in America.  The documentary incorporates a historical and contemporary view of this little known and controversial part of American history in 1975, featuring compelling interviews from a cross-section of adoptees, their parents and volunteers, as well as archival and rare home video footage.

“This is a very special celebration that brings together so many who were affected by Operation Babylift,” said Tammy Nguyen Lee. “We are grateful to be a part of this event that remembers such an important part of our history.”

“The 35th anniversary of Operation Babylift is a special time for adoptees to reflect on their past and think about their unique journey from Vietnam to America,” said Jared Rehberg.

“I believe the April 24th program is a culmination of the Operation Babylift Diaspora, 35 years later. This is a program that will be informative, insightful, enjoyable and a once-in-a-lifetime assemblage of Vietnamese adoptees (VADs), OB participants, and Vietnam Veterans,” said Lana Noone, adoptee mother and moderator of the event. “I’m delighted we’ll screen Tammy’s film, and the speakers we’ve assembled will give voice to several perspectives on OB. It’s truly a “not-to-be-missed” event for all!” For more details about the event, visit www.njvvmf.org/35thanniversaryofbabylift.

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian-American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam has received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com

Operation Babylift at Rhode Island International Film Festival

Rhode Island Premiere: Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam

Hosted by the 13th The Rhode Island International Film Festival


On Thursday, August 6th, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam made its Rhode Island premiere, screening at the 13th Annual Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF). The award-winning documentary, described as “Amazing…compelling and hard hitting” by Bolsavik.com, screened at 1:15 p.m. at the Providence Public Library in Providence, Rhode Island.

Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam tells the significant, yet untold story of the $2 million U.S. initiative that airlifted over 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country from the impending threat of the Communist regime. These adoptees grew up facing unique challenges in America, including prejudice overshadowed by a controversial war and cultural identity crisis. Featuring compelling and insightful interviews of the volunteers, parents, and organizations directly involved, the documentary takes a contemporary look at Operation Babylift and its relevance to international adoption today.

Dallas based production company ATG Against The Grain Productions is honored to have Operation Babylift selected to screen at the RIIFF, chosen from over 3,300 submissions. An Academy qualifying festival, RIIFF is known as the largest of its kind in New England and will showcase many independent and international films.

Says RIIFF Executive Director George T. Marshall, “The film work that was entered this year has been amazing. It’s been very challenging for our judges to limit their film selections. The quality has been that strong. There is no question that during this year’s Festival we will have some very thoughtful new cinematic work that will inspire and encourage audiences to respond.”