By Inclusion SYV


Unfortunately, the Santa Ynez Valley is not immune to the impacts of racism and bigotry.

Is there a way that we can all better embrace the national, ethnic, religious, and gender diversity of our community and live more rewarding lives? That’s the purpose of Inclusion SYV, an organization founded in 2017.

The members of Inclusion welcome you to a monthly series of true stories written by members of our community, dedicated to initiating a continuing and open discussion of the immigrant experience and the often dramatic and long-term impact of both welcoming and traumatic events. 

Our hope is that readers will find each story a meaningful contribution to a better understanding of each other.

The names of the writers are kept anonymous to protect their identities.

Email any comments to If you are interested in telling your story, please let us know.

Plucked from Saigon

My story of immigration from South Vietnam began in April 1975. Saigon was falling into Communist hands, and the war was coming to an end. I had already lost two older sisters to the war, and we knew the time to leave the country was now.

Two of my sisters and I were informed by a friend to follow him to the largest hotel in Saigon if we wanted to leave. After spending the night on the rooftop, we were all picked up by United States military helicopters, which were famously depicted on television. That night we watched the city ignite in gunfire and violence. We were brought to the Saigon airport and from there to many aircraft carriers waiting in international waters for the thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict and country. 

Once in America at Camp Pendleton, we were eventually picked up by my sister’s mother-in-law, who sponsored all three of us so we could remain in America. Ventura would be our home for the next few years as we all found jobs and tried to acclimate to the American way of life.

I had studied English in high school, and this gave me a great advantage in my communication skill. We all attended community college and furthered our education with much determination.

It was not easy being a refugee and immigrant at that time, especially with the many differing opinions of the Vietnam War. We felt so blessed to be given the opportunity to start new lives and meet new people in such a different but beautiful country. I met my husband in Ventura on a blind date, and we were married that same year. He always wanted to move to a quiet and safe place to raise a family, and the Santa Ynez Valley was that special place. 

I worked as a bookkeeper and seamstress at home to raise our two children, and my husband worked at a local grocery store. In 1995 we both became licensed massage therapists in order to help others with their health and wellbeing. One of the greatest days of my life was in 1996, when I became a U.S. citizen. I truly am blessed and living the American dream.