Military family helps evacuees transition to new life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Branden Rae
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A mother walks into an empty house mid-morning, after working all night. She notices the pile of dirty dishes is a little bigger than it was yesterday. She realizes she’s missing her kids’ first day of school.

Later that evening, a father picks up his kids after their first day of school after a 12-hour shift. They ask him what’s for dinner: leftovers again.

For the Nguyen family, this has been their reality during the past few weeks while assisting evacuation operations at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. U.S. Air Force Major Duy Nguyen, 86th Dental Squadron orthodontist, and his wife, Faiza Nguyen, civilian, have both been working long hours to support the mission while still caring for their family.
Nguyen serves as the 86th Medical Group crisis action team chief, while his wife translates for and communicate with the evacuees.

Nguyen is responsible for coordinating health-related evacuee concerns with base leadership. He is uniquely prepared to aid the evacuees since Vietnamese refugee himself. As such, he has helped leadership understand the concerns of the evacuation operation.

“I felt like I needed to show up for evacuee families,” Nguyen said. “They are coming into the United States seeking a better future and more security for their families. It is now my opportunity to give back.”

He was not the only one in his family who felt the need to help. Faiza also shares a need to help and contributed by being the only female translator — the only one for the first five days of the evacuation operation here. Originally from Pakistan, she empathizes with the families, just like her husband.

“These are my brothers and sisters, coming from a very close neighboring country,” Faiza said. “The linguist team was looking for somebody who would represent the culture and know the religion. I knew that I needed to show up.”

Working long hours, the pair rarely saw each other. When they did, the power couple passed each other information relating to the operations and how to improve conditions when they actually did see each other.

“When she would come home, we would have a quick handoff,” Nguyen said. “She gives me the on-the-ground information about how the evacuees feel and what they need and what needs they are expressing.”

Operation Allies Welcome signaled an immediate and unexpected mission change which has impacted the entirety of the Kaiserslautern Military Community. These changes happened overnight for the Nguyen family and many others within the area.

“One day we were just stay-at-home moms,” Faiza said. “The next minute we are wearing all these different hats.”

It wasn’t just the couple that was part of the evacuation efforts. The whole Nguyen family each helped in their own way. The kids also participated by donating clothes and toys, helping with chores, or helping sanitize baby bottles. More than that, the family leaned on their community to help them help with daily routines so the children’s lives wouldn’t be impacted too much.

“We would like to say thank you to all our friends that stepped in and to our neighbors when they saw we were in need,” Nguyen said. “We are so thankful for the support system that we have here. We didn’t do this alone.”
Being a part of this mission reiterated that when a community comes together, anything is possible.

“There have been so many hands involved and so many people who have worked really long, hard hours,” Nguyen said. “It has been a gigantic effort. We are very thankful for all who have been, and continue to be, part of this evacuation operation.”