“Too much war…”

“I left Burma because there was too much war, too much fighting. I didn’t have a home. I was a soldier. In 1988, the students protested the military government. I came from the jungle to fight. Now I hate war. Fighting for what? For who? For why? It was very foolish. No food. No home. A broken family. A broken school. A broken education. Everything was broken. So I decided: I have to try for America. I applied with the USCI, and they approved.

When I first came to America 9 years ago, I had no job, no money. And I needed a smoke! My heart was shaking, where do I start? It’s the beginning! I didn’t know how I could do it. But after 8 months, we begin to know American culture: how to live, how to eat, how to talk. One time, we didn’t know what the electronic heater was (a lighter). My wife sees it and says ‘Fire! Fire! Call 9-1-1!’ They came in, one American policeman another Chinese policeman, and they laughed. We just didn’t know. Things like that happened and happened. Now we’re okay. I went to school. I learned history… read and learned. I started to understand more.

America is good. If I have a job, good. If I don’t have a job, I can apply for benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. The government helps you. In my country, they didn’t. It’s too late for me. Education. Communication. Everything broken. I tried for the United States because of my children. They won’t have to know about war. When they grow up, I will tell them about my story. My oldest son knows a little. Sometime when I tell him to do something, he says, ‘you were a soldier, don’t tell me what to do.’ I showed him a picture of when I was a soldier, and he cried. 

I’m 45 years old now. Sometimes I think about my daddy, my mom, my brother, my sister, all dead. I miss my family. 24 years ago, I saw my brother in the refugee camp, but he didn’t remember me. I asked him, ‘What is your daddy and mommy’s name? How many brothers and sisters do you have?’ Then I knew this was my brother! But I haven’t seen him since. I did talk to him in 2008, so I know he is alive.

I clean dishes now. This is good. This is work. Everything is okay.”