Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 10. 22nd May 1975
The Orphan Supermarket
The Orphan Supermarket
Not since the dry's of southern slave markets have helpless children been treated as cruelly as were the Vietnamese children who arrived here by airlift this month.
Most of them were taken token Presidio, an Array base where hundreds of thousands of GIs had been processed en route to Vietnam.
One of those who volunteered to help with the children was Muoi McConnell, a native of Danang now living in nearby San Leandro, the wife of a former GI. She spent four days at the Presidio, working almost nonstop because she could not properly take care of the physical needs of the 20-some children assigned to her.
Mrs. McConnell told the Guardian: "I talked with about 70 children. All were crying most of the time, wanting to go home. Many of there had brothers and sisters somewhere at the Presidio. I tried to find the brothers and sisters. Sometimes I found them, but they were not together for leng. They were taken by foster parents without any regard to family ties.
"There were three from one family—Tran Lisa. 12, Tran Alan, 8 and Tran Angel, 5. Their mother is in Vietnam, their father is in Australia. Their mother had asked Friends of All the Children (the organization that handled the airlift from Vietnam) to take them to Australia so their father could pick them up. Lisa told us the name and address of her mother in Saigon. But there was no way to get them to either of their parents. It was like a big machine. They were taken by three different American families,
"There were two unrelated girls with the same name, one 4 and the other 7. Both were half Vietnamese and half American. A couple from Atlantic City had been assigned to take the 4-year-old. They looked at her, decided she was too young, found another girl with the same name and walked out with her.
"Another 4-year-old cried constantly for her mother. After a long time, we found her 3-year-old brother and she slopped crying. Later that day the boy was chosen by an American couple and taken away. After that, the little girl never stopped crying.
"I will never forget Doan Thi Thuy Link, a 4-year-old girl who is paralyzed, can't move or take tire of herself at all. She has been living with her mother and grandparents in Saigon. She was sent here to be taken by her aunt and uncle until the war ends. The [unclear: aunt] and uncle did not come to get her and instead of waiting to get in contact with these relatives, the people in charge let a couple from Tucson take her. She did not eat, cried all the time for three days. Finally she ate a little rice. We were very worried about her.
"All of the children had tags around their necks with their names and ages. There was a boy whose tag read Dominic Castro H. Nantes. He insisted that this was not his name. He said his parents in Vietnam had given him a letter with his correct name, and saying that they wanted him back after the war. He was taken by people from Evansville, Ind., and I don't think he will ever get back to his parents or be called by his real name. The people in charge at the Presidio just said he was too young to know his name. He said he was 6 and looked about that age.
"There was Le Thi Bich Chi. She is 12 and her mother is vice director of an orphanage in Saigon. She said that her mother made an agreement with Friends of All the Children [unclear: that] she and her 5-year-old brother, Le Thi Bach [unclear: Uyen, were] not to be adopted. The mother wanted to have then returned after the war. But she was taken—without her brother. Chi had a letter from her mother with this information, but it was taken from her.
"If people didn't find the child they were to adopt, they just went shopping through all the rooms for another one.
"When I told the Americans in charge what the children told me about their parents, their relatives and so on, the Americans tried to avoid facing the situation by saying the kids are too young to know what's going on."
Muoi McConnell worked in a hospital in Vietnam during the first years of the war. She said many children were there who had became separated from their refugee families. "We kept them," she said, "and their parents came and found them. Most of the children who were brought here have one or two parents, but nobody paid any attention to that."