NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Forty years after the fall of Saigon, former soldiers and the New Orleans Vietnamese community looked back Thursday.
It was a chaotic end to a war in which over 50,000 American soldiers were killed, and it had a profound impact in the Crescent City.
In 1975, the U.S. pulled out of Saigon, and so did Peter Ho.
"Fearing of the rockets, and the fighting I don't see my future at all at that point," said Ho, who now lives in New Orleans east.
The war claimed the lives of millions and changed the lives of millions more.
"Just happened to jump on one of the boats, and we ended up too many days at sea," Ho said.
"After Saigon fall, two days later, they captured me," said Quan Huynh, a former colonel in the South Vietnamese army.
After the U.S. pulled out, the North Vietnamese moved in.
"The question was not if it was going to happen, but when it was going to happen," said former U.S. Marine Col. Wade Benson.
Huynh was held against his will in a prison camp.
"They put 129 people in a room that was 30 feet by 30 feet," Huynh said.
Their stories are shared by 1.5 million who would eventually come to the U.S. after the communists took control in South Vietnam.
"My father put me on his back, and we walked a long distance," Nguyen said.
Nguyen now heads an agency called Viet that helps non-English-speaking people break down barriers.
"We make sacrifices to reach our goal, and that's part of our culture," Nguyen said.
Those sacrifices can be seen in the tidy homes of New Orleans East, where flags fly at half staff today, to commemorate the sacrifices made in the failed effort to win the Vietnam war.
"We went to the dead end of the road, and then, America, you let us stay," Huynh said.
The Vietnamese Americans we spoke with today say as dramatic as the fall of Saigon was 40 years ago, today they are grateful for everything this country has done for them.
"They open their arms wide to welcome us," Huynh said.
All three of Huynh's children became class valedictorians and graduated from Tulane.
"Our second generation succeeded everywhere at everything." Huynh said.
Peter Ho became an electrician and is now an active member at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans East, where nearly 8,000 Vietnamese thrive.
"This month we appreciate American soldiers die in our country," said Ho.
The local Vietnamese we spoke with believed the sacrifices made during the war were worth it. They say the freedoms they now enjoy in the U.S. were worth fighting for.
And though many return to Vietnam from time to time, they long for a more open relationship with their home country.