Vietnam Veteran and Lost Love Reunite to Find Their Daughter

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Courtesy Chicago Tribune

Courtesy Chicago Tribune

A 68-year-old Vietnam Veteran recently returned to the Southeast Asian country to reconnect with the native woman he’d fallen for 45 years ago, as well as locate the orphaned daughter he had left behind.

Jim Reischl, 21 at the time, was stationed at a U.S. airbase outside of Saigon in 1970. While there, he connected with a woman he knew only as Linh Hoa, and the two began a relationship based around lovemaking and listening to 1960’s records. When Reischl was ready to ship out, the woman told him she was pregnant. Reluctant to believe her, Reischl left.

Years later, he reminisced, “She wanted me to stay with her and live in Vietnam. At the time I said ‘I’m not going to live here, stay here.’ It was totally foreign to me. I was young and stupid I guess.”

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Reischl returned to the United States, got a government job, married twice, had a child, and dealt with post-war related health issues. But through it all, he continued to think of the woman he left behind. After his second marriage crumbled, Reischl started trying to find her, eventually becoming involved with an organization called Father Founded that helps ex-servicemen track down the women and children they left behind. According to estimates, over 100,000 children were born to U.S. servicemen and Vietnamese women during the war.

Courtesy Washington Post

Courtesy Washington Post

Reischl traveled back to Vietnam to look for Linh Hoa, scouring the apartment the two used to stay in, speaking to local journalists, showing anyone who would look at the snapshot he had of the two of them together, and taking out ads in local newspapers. He used these ads to make his intentions clear: “I am in search of you. It has been many years. I am not looking for a relationship. I want you to know that. I just would like to talk with the wonderful lady I knew in 1969 and 1970.”

This past September, 64-year-old Nguyen Thi Hanh AKA “Linh Hoa” came across one of the stories while browsing on her iPad and was shocked to see a photo of herself with Reischl. Seeing the photo brought back painful memories for her however. Heartbroken over his departure, Hanh had retreated to the countryside to give birth to their child. She commissioned a friend to take the baby to a local orphanage, however the friend disappeared and the orphanage had no record of the child. In the following years she joined the South Vietnamese Army, and spent time in a Communist reeducation camp. Eventually she married and had two children.

After seeing the story, Hanh contacted the reporter, who in-turn put her in contact with Reischl. The two communicated via phone, text, email, and Skype before eventually meeting in person again this past weekend when he travelled to Vietnam. While there is still some resentment, Hanh says she’ll never truly forgive him for leaving, but the two have teamed up to locate their daughter.

Courtesy Washington Post.

Courtesy Washington Post.

Speaking about the situation, Hanh offered, “It’s a lie to say I’m completely calm and carefree about this event. I have mixed feelings about it. I’m quite happy with my current life otherwise. My only unfulfilled dream is to be able to find my first daughter.”

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