|CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Oct. 18, 2006 — Growing up in communist Vietnam, then getting a fresh start in the United States at age 14, Cpl. Huynh D. Pham, facilities noncommissioned officer, Headquarters and Support Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF, didn’t speak English but seemed to adjust to the American way of life rather quickly.
Before joining the Marine Corps in his late 20s, Pham worked what he described as unfulfilling jobs. He said he always wanted to do his part to repay the United States for the help they provided for his home country.
“When I first came to the United States with my older sister, I spoke no English at all. I took English as a second language in high school and it helped me out in the long run,” Pham said. “Growing up in communist Vietnam was definitely different from the (United States), but when I first arrived here I had cousins to hang out with to keep my mind off being away from home. I joined the Boy Scouts and surfed a lot growing up in California. I just enjoyed being a teenager.”
Pham explained that Vietnam required teenage males to join the military at age 16. His mother did not want him to join the U.S. military after high school, remembering some of the tragic events that happened during the Vietnam War.
“When I was a teenager, I lived near a military base and always saw Marines and soldiers in uniform. I loved the way the uniforms looked and the confidence they had when they were wearing them,” Pham said. “I wanted to join the military when I graduated high school, but my mother didn’t want me to. I worked different jobs after high school, but I decided I wanted to do something better with my life. That’s when I decided to join the Marine Corps in 2003.”
Upon completion of the Basic Hygiene Equipment Operator Course, Marine Corps Engineer School, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Pham was assigned to H&S Co., to start his career in the operational forces. Since II MEF (Forward) was getting ready to take the lead in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Pham trained with most of the II MHG Marines to prepare for his first overseas deployment.
“During predeployment training, I got to shoot different types of weapons I’d never seen before I came in the Marine Corps. I liked being able to work with different Marines and learning all about different aspects of the Marine Corps,” Pham said. “I served a year in Iraq, and the experience was