Soldier On Cover

Soldier On

My Father, His General, and the Long Road from Vietnam

Tran B. Quan

Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, 2021, 240 pages

Book Review published on: January 26, 2024

Soldier On: My Father, His General, and the Long Road from Vietnam provides a riveting personal tale of the Vietnam War’s impact on families of the South Vietnamese military following the war. Dr. Tran B. Quan recounts the personal story of her father Le Quan and an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) division commander he served under. She further recounts struggles their families faced escaping Communist Vietnam and forging new lives in the United States.

America shares a complex relationship with Vietnam since U.S. withdrawal and eventual communist takeover in 1975. Quan provides a fascinating story of a young girl in Vietnam while delving deep into her family’s experience as her father endured postwar communist imprisonment. She also vividly recounts the family’s exodus from Vietnam as refugees, first as one of hundreds of thousands of “boat people” then as a resident of a Thai refugee camp. Quan describes in detail how they eventually persevered to achieve a version of the “American Dream.” Only in 2014 did her father reconnect with Gen. Tran Ba Di, who had also settled in the United States following seventeen years in various communist prison camps. The inspiring relationship of these former ARVN officers in their adopted country illustrates the kind of challenges that faced the multitudes of those who came to America following the war. This moving account provides an inspiring story of personal trials, sacrifice, and triumph which only adds to the beautiful collage of the American experience.

Soldier On illuminates a collective gap in society’s understanding of postconflict issues affecting those we fought alongside. Amongst those in the military who have served in Afghanistan, our withdrawal often remains raw and painful on the psyche of the American soldier because of those left behind. This book sadly reminds us that we have been in this place before.

In the strategic context of conflict and war, it’s easy for American policymakers to lose sight of the personal costs imposed on the U.S. military, our allies, partners, and their families. This story poignantly reminds us of the need to sustain our commitment to those we fought alongside while pursuing our Nation’s policy objectives. Even when such objectives remain unrealized, there remains a human cost that should never be unaccounted for or forgotten. Quan’s biographical and historical account adds a valuable perspective of war’s cost on those fortunate enough to survive, while also honoring their struggles and valuable contributions to sustain the “American Dream” as not just a beacon of hope, but a reality for all Americans to aspire.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Phillip Kerber, MIPP, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas