Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Military Veterans in honor of Veterans Day.
Guest blog post by Son Lam, Management Analyst, Office of Financial and Management Services, U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
When I first arrived in America, I was a three-year-old refugee from Vietnam immediately following the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. My earliest memories of my journey to America was staying in a large hanger on Camp Pendleton in California where Marines gave us clothes and food. I remember running around with the other kids but we would stop and salute the American flag high on its post. Ever since then, I always knew that I would be a soldier.
This led me on a lifelong road in the U.S. Army. I have served from the lowest rank, Buck Private, to my retirement rank of Major in 2014. In every position, I loved what I did no matter how hard it was because I was protecting my adopted country. It was not only a sense of Patriotism but a sense of paying back for the freedoms my family has enjoyed and been given.
In 2002, I deployed to Camp Doha, Kuwait to prepare for the invasion of Iraq. I was responsible for the reception and staging of all units into Kuwait with combat equipment. I was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for equipping 16 Armor and Mechanized battalions. My other combat deployment was in 2009 to Afghanistan where I served with the Combined Security Transition Command. I was responsible for the arming of the Afghanistan National Army and Police. I developed a munitions guidebook and transitioned the Afghan National Security Forces to NATO ammunition.
Today, I work as a Management Analyst for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and serve as the Contracting Officer Representative. I handle all the agency’s contracting actions. In my role, I’ve reduced and eliminated redundant services saving the agency over $2,000 a month. I also negotiated phone upgrades at no cost to the agency. I handle all invoice payments for EDA headquarters and regional offices for services such as copiers, cell phones and parking as well as an array of other services.
Last October following the devastating 2017 hurricane season, I volunteered for the Surge Capacity Force for FEMA and deployed to Puerto Rico. While in Puerto Rico, I was in the logistics branch and was sent to the city of Ponce. Our team delivered over 2 million gallons of water to the southwest portion of Puerto Rico from Guayama to Mayaguez. Together we downloaded 4 ships worth of water, totaling tens of thousands of pallets of water to be distributed to area residents. In addition, we distributed hundreds of generators and other needed equipment for the residents of Puerto Rico.
My sense of duty led me to 24 years in the U.S. Army, as a police officer, and now finally as a Management Analyst in EDA. My entire adult life has been in service to my country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I reflect back on my days in the military, I can smile at the hardships I and my fellow service members endured. From being yelled at by drill sergeants at basic training to having my family share my retirement, I would do it all over again. On cold rainy nights, I think of the soldiers standing guard somewhere in the world, the hardships men and women who came before us have endured. While I was in uniform, when someone thanked me for my service, I always said,"You’re Welcome." But I always wondered, “For what?” This is something I want to do, this is where I want to go, and someone I want to be. Now as a retiree, I can understand the gratitude bestowed upon me. So on this Veterans Day, I want to extend my gratitude and recognize and thank all those who served our country the past and all those who are still on freedom’s frontier.