Thank a Veteran, Everyday

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Thank a Veteran, Everyday

I feel so fortunate and blessed to live in America, and to have the freedoms that we have here. I have the freedom to go to school and to get an education. I can live without fear; without having to look over my shoulder. I don't have to be scared that my life is at risk because of my education. I am so grateful to be an American and have the privilege of this freedom. And, we owe this freedom to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.

I cherish this freedom because I didn't always have it. I came to America as a small child and as a refugee. My family had survived the Cambodian Genocide known as the Killing Fields. 40 years ago, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and initiated a murderous regime. Two million people died during the Killing Fields, from torture, execution, starvation and disease. During the Killing Fields anyone who was educated was targeted for extermination. Doctors, nurses, teachers, artists, musicians, anyone with an education was interrogated, tortured, and brutally murdered. My mom, who was a school teacher, had to hide her identity for the four brutal years.

She was taken to be interrogated multiple times, but with the heart of a tiger, she refused to give up. Miraculously, she survived. After the overthrow of the regime, we escaped out of Cambodia. Trekking through jungles laced with landmines and evading the armed border patrol, we made our way to a refugee camp. Two weeks after arriving in the Cambodian refugee camp, we were severely wounded by errant border patrol shells. My mother sustained massive abdominal trauma. My left ear was partially torn off. A volunteer Red Cross surgeon operated on us, saving our lives. After a year and a half of living in four different refugee camps, we arrived in the US.

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(The authors with their family in a Cambodian refugee camp, seeking asylum in America.)

Arriving in America, my mom didn't speak English. She had nothing except the rags on her back and the memories of the Killing Fields. However, here she had hope. She was alive and free. My mom scrubbed toilets as a housekeeper at Good Samaritan Hospital during the day and cleaned houses for doctors in the evening. In the summers, my family worked in the fields of Oregon's Willamette Valley alongside Mexican migrant farm workers, picking strawberries, cherry tomatoes, beans and blueberries. Working tirelessly, my mom instilled in me a strong work ethic and a gratitude for the blessing of being free. And she taught me to dream. That is the miracle of America. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.


That is the miracle of America. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Today, I'm a surgeon, serving our nation's veterans. As a child in Cambodia, I survived a genocide where millions of people were killed because they were educated. Teachers, doctors, nurses, artists, musicians were executed. Today as an adult in America, I have the freedom to get an education, to dream, and to work as a doctor. I have the freedom to live without fear. This is the reason why I am grateful to have the privilege of serving the veterans who have given so much to this country.

I have the freedom to get an education, to dream, and to work as a doctor. I have the freedom to live without fear. This is the reason why I am grateful to have the privilege of serving the veterans who have given so much to this country.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of freedom, which we owe not only to the ones who fought for our nation's original independence, but also the ones who serve in order to maintain that freedom. The freedoms we have as Americans are an everyday reality; which millions of people across the world don't have. If you cherish your freedom, thank a veteran not just on Independence Day, Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Thank a veteran every day.

The freedoms we have as Americans are an everyday reality; which millions of people across the world don't have. If you cherish your freedom, thank a veteran not just on Independence Day, Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
Thank a veteran every day.

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(Dr. SreyReath Kuy and Dr. SreyRam Kuy are the authors of the forthcoming book, The Heart of a Tiger, the story of their mother's survival during the Cambodian Killing Fields and their family's journey to America.)

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(Dr. SreyReath Kuy is a podiatrist, caring for patients with severe complications of diabetes and renal diseases.)