By Natasha Tersigni, 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs
Thunder Bay, Ontario — For Thunder Bay Army Reservist Sergeant John Ta, wearing the maple leaf on his left arm is a reminder of the freedom and privileges that he enjoys daily in Canada.
Being a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and a signal troop sergeant with the 38 Signal Regiment in Thunder Bay would not have happened without the harrowing journey of his mother, Suot Tran, who was able to escape the communist regime of Vietnam.
In the late 1970’s, Ms. Tran was among the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that fled the harsh living conditions and deteriorating human-rights situation that personified the country following the Vietnam War and the Fall of Saigon. In order to break free of this life, many Vietnamese refugees took to the high seas in makeshift boats.
“My mother and sister were part of the Vietnamese refugees that the media referred to as ‘boat people’. They escaped the country in these rafts,” explained Sgt Ta.
The boat people were able to make their way to countries in Southeast Asia, including British Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. From refugee camps in these countries, most of the Vietnamese nationals were resettled in other countries, with the majority immigrating to the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Ms. Tran and her daughter were welcomed by Canada and settled in Thunder Bay, Ontario where Sgt Ta was born and raised.
In high school, Sgt Ta decided he wanted to join the local Army Reserve unit after seeing the high school co-op program. Despite her own experiences with the military regime in Vietnam, Ms. Tran was encouraging of this endeavor.
“She was very supportive of me joining,” said Sgt Ta.
“I wanted to try something different. I was more of a technically savvy person and those are the sort of subjects and areas where I spent most of my time throughout high school. I found a good fit with the signals trade.”
Over his nine-year career Sgt Ta, who is currently in his last semester of computer science at Lakehead University, has taken part in countless courses, taskings and exercises.
One tasking that stands out most for him was in 2011 when he was deployed for two months on Operation LUSTRE – the Canadian Forces flood-mitigation operation in support of the Province of Manitoba.
Helping Canadians and giving back to his country is what Sgt Ta enjoys most about the opportunity to be an Army Reservist.
“I am really happy to be in Canada and a Canadian citizen. I am really proud to serve in the military supporting Canadian ethics and values.”