For Leading Aircraftman Chris Nguyen, December 25th evokes memories of sticky rice and pork rather than Christmas trees and presents.
CAPTION: Leading Aircraftman Chris Nguyen, who is deployed on Operation Accordion, will be at Camp Baird in the Middle East for Christmas. Story and photo by Corporal Jacob Joseph.
The network technician, who is currently deployed to a forward operating base in the Middle East, said Christmas was like any other day when he was growing up.
“We don’t usually celebrate Christmas in Vietnamese culture,” Leading Aircraftman Nguyen said.
“But there is a new generation in our family now, so we make it a special day for my brother’s and sister’s kids.”
Leading Aircraftman Nguyen immigrated to Australia in the 1980s. His father and uncle fled Vietnam, escaping persecution after fighting in the South Vietnamese military. The men and their families bribed their way onto a boat bound for Australia and settled in Adelaide.
Leading Aircraftman Nguyen said his dad was against him joining the military at first.
“He thought it was going to be the same conditions as the Vietnamese army,” he said.
“Then he saw what I did and his perception of the ADF changed. Now he is proud of what I do.”
Halfway through his seven-month deployment on Operation Accordion, Leading Aircraftman Nguyen is working at the communications help desk at Headquarters Middle East.
Normally posted to 1 Combat Communication Squadron in Edinburgh, he is one of dozens of ADF personnel deployed to support operations across the Middle East and Africa, and this is his second deployment to the region.
In 2017, he was part of a large group who maintained communications systems. This time, he was the only one from his workplace deployed.
He said because there were fewer people, he had a closer bond with other deployed ADF personnel.
“It’s a different atmosphere all together,” he said.
This Christmas, Leading Aircraftman Nguyen will join dozens of his workmates and other coalition forces for backyard cricket, a BBQ and an exchange of secret Santa presents.
He will also wish his family in Australia a happy holiday using Skype and tell his mother he misses her cooking.
“Every time I visited, she would cook something up for me,” Leading Aircraftman Nguyen said.
“She held a family dinner every fortnight and cooked traditional Vietnamese dishes like beef pho and banh xeo.
“I appreciate my parents so much for what they did, and they’re pretty proud of me too.”