A Tribute from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
Sunday, March 26, 2023
On December 13, 2022, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy provided a tribute before members of Congress on VNAH and Mr.Ca Tran's life's work. We are deeply honored and humbled by the recognition and years of partnership. Thank you!
United States of America - Congressional Record
Proceedings and Debates of the 117th Congress, Second Session
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Senate: Tribute to Ca Van Tran
Mr.LEAHY, Madam President, in 1988, after speaking with Bobby Muller, a Vietnam veteran who was wounded and later founded the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation--VVAF--to help alleviate the suffering of Vietnamese and Cambodians who were barely injured in the war, I met with President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker at the White House.
At the time, the United States and Vietnam did not have diplomatic relations. Vietnam's economy had been devastated by the war, but the U.S. had a trade embargo against the country which remained in effect for another 15 years. There were many hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who had been severely disabled due to war injuries, with no access to rehabilitation services. President Bush and Secretary Baker and I agreed that it was in the interest of the United States to begin reconciling with Vietnam by addressing some of the worst legacies of the war and that the way to begin was to use what later became known as the "Leahy War Victims Fund," administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to provide artificial limbs, and wheelchairs to victims of landmines and other unexploded ordnances--UXO.
That initiative, beginning in Vietnam, was expanded over the years to many other countries whose people have been harmed by armed conflict, and it continues to this day. One of the implementers of the Leahy War Victims Funds in Vietnam, starting in the early 1990s, has been Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped--VNAH--whose founded and president, Ca Van Tran, left Vietnam as a refugee in 1975 with hardly a penny to his name. Over many years, through hard work and perseverance, Ca became a successful businessman in the United States. After returning to Vietnam and seeing the ongoing suffering of people who had no access to prostheses or wheelchairs, he founded VNAH. Since then, VNAH has carried out successful projects in multiple provinces and was instrumental in working with the Vietnamese authorities to write Vietnam's disabilities law, the first of its kind in the country.
Ca became a good friend to me and my wife Marcelle and to my staff. we have visited VNAH's projects in Vietnam, which now assist victims of Agent Orange as well as injured survivors of UXO accidents. The difference that Ca and VNAH's superb Vietnamese staff have made in the lives of the severely disabled and their families cannot be adequately described in words. People who lost one or both legs, who were crawling on the ground for years, finally received an artificial limb or wheelchair and their dignity restored. Parents, children, and siblings with cognitive or physical disabiliies so severe they cannot speak, walk, sit up, feed, or clean themselves no have better care.
In recent years, Ca has had to cope with his own challenges due to separate motor vehicle accidents both of which were due entirely to the negligence of other drivers. at one point, his own mobility was limited to a wheelchair. Yet as soon as he was physically able and Vietnam relaxed its COVID restrictions, Ca went back there to explore ways to expand VNAH's activities.
Ca has been an inspiration to me and to countless others in this country and in Vietnam. He overcame immense challenges as a refugee and when he was financially able, he devoted his life to helping others far less fortunate. Although originally from the south, through sheer perseverance and dedication to helping others, he overcame the suspicions of the authorities in Hanoi. It is no small measure thanks to Ca Van Tran and VNAH that the Leahy War Victims Fund became what it is today.
As I prepare to retire after 48 years in the Senate, I want other Members of Congress to know about Ca Van Tran. He is an exceptional example of the life-changing difference that one compassionate, dedicated person has made to overcome some of the painful legacies of the war in Vietnam.