This is a story about bravery, faith, love, and forgiveness as told to me by Michele. 

“Promise me you’ll always remember:
You’re braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.”
~Winnie the Pooh

Michele with her mother Suzanne

A tear slowly found its way down my cheek as I listened to the stoic brave woman across from me. Michele’s wrinkled hands together on her lap, unnerved. There was a peace and light radiating from her. My phone was recording Michele, I listened as my heart fluttered. Michele Green, a beautiful woman who didn’t look a day over 70 years old, but I knew she was in her early 80’s. She explained that she hadn’t always been open to sharing her experiences, but it was her husband who helped her open up. Once she began to tell her story she found freedom, peace and forgiveness. “I will never forget what happened, but I began to forgive.”

It was as if Michele was taken back in her memories. She smiled remembering her mother and father. Michelle was born in Saigan, Vietnam. Her family lived in a French community. Michele has the best memories of her parents, she smiled talking about them. I could feel the love she had for both her mom and dad. Michele was taught to love God, her parents were devout Catholics, she grew up believing what they had taught her. To love God and Jesus Christ. “I was born Catholic and I will die Catholic.” That was a common statement used in their home. 

Michele's father Camille and her mother Suzanne

Her father had a farm and Michele remembered a time when she was younger on the farm. All the kids, as per usual, had to do daily chores. Michele was given the job to kill, and pluck the chicken for dinner. She had never done it before and she begged her brother to do it for her. He refused. Her mother told her that she needed to do it or she would be punished by her father. The usual consequences would be whipped with a bamboo stick and sent to bed without dinner. She got the courage and knocked the chicken over the head with a 2x4. She plucked the chicken and stuck it in the fridge. Her father came home and he asked if everyone did their chores. Michele was terrified, because though she killed the chicken, she could not finish cutting off the head. Her mother decided to stand up for her and told her husband that Michele had tried, but couldn’t finish the job, but that he should show her what to do. He agreed that he would not punish her, but he would show her. As they opened the fridge to get out the chicken, a featherless chicken jumped out and began running around. They all began to laugh and needless to say that chicken was not killed, but became Michele’s pet.

Although Vietnam had been occupied by the Japanese Michele still remembered wonderful times with her parents. Her mother worked as a professional Seamstress, but was always there to care for her and her siblings. She remembered that her mother would often use herbs to treat and heal them. Her mother had always made sure the kids were all happy and always making wonderful memories as a family. Michele’s father, though strict, was a very pleasant man who worked hard to take care of the family. Throughout Michele’s life she was constantly told that her father loved her mother so much. “They had a marriage made in heaven.”

Michele with her siblings and cousins.

“Happiness is not a goal . . . it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

It was a tumultuous time around the world, many were terrified spending the last four years being in the midst of war. In hard times love can still win, that’s how Michele felt surrounded by her family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins—life still seemed wonderful. Love can make you feel like you can stand up to anything. World War II was coming to an end, Germany had already surrendered months earlier, and the Atomic Bomb was dropped in Hiroshima and Iwo Jima was taken over by the United States. It seemed everything would soon be back to a new normal, and peace was entering hearts around the world.

Michele and her siblings

The moon was still in the sky, and dreams were still possible. It was early morning on September 24, 1945. Suddenly Michele woke to loud noises and chaos ensued as strangers were ripping through their house. She was in a daze, as they were drug outside. Fear was evident on everyone’s faces, though her father stood strong and confident. They were brought along with many other people who were also living in the French community. Crowds of people crying, hugging and holding one another, all still unsure of what was happening.

The Japanese had surrendered and left Vietnam, but in doing so it was rumored that they had opened up the prison doors. There were different groups of people living on Vietnam, one group was known as a rebel group called the Viet-Cong They were known to have hated the French and wanted control of their country. They put the people into two groups, one was women and children, the other group was teen boys, and men. Somehow, Michele, and her older sister Nicole were put with the men.

This story will be continued. Stay tuned...