Van B. Choat

Although her birth records were lost in the flames of war, Van Bich Choat was born Nguyen Thi Hien in the village of Rach Gia on the Gulf of Thailand southwest of Saigon.

Her maternal grandparents—once wealthy landowners in North Vietnam—fled south after the French defeat in 1954 and establishment of Ho Chi Minh’s communist regime. Like her older brother Quang and younger sister Thuy, Van saw her father only a handful of times before he disappeared in a battle that also took their mother’s Life.  

Orphan by war, Van and her siblings were shuttled among a variety of custodians whose guardianship ranged from her grandmother’s stoic love to open abuse by other relatives. Later, her Aunt Thu married an older American who adopted the orphaned children: beginning a decade-long flight from the war and a narrow escape from massacre during a brief stay in the Philippines. Back in Vietnam, Van’s hope for a new life were crushed by a near-fatal collision on the eve of Saigon’s collapse.

Relocating with her adoptive parents to a small Texas town, Van worked two part-time jobs and graduated high school with honors, winning a Pell Grant to Oklahoma State University. Eventually she married her high-school sweetheart, Ronnie Choat—a U.S. Army paratrooper. Over the next few years, she gave him two sons before Ronnie died of cancer in the VA’s bureaucratic “hospital hell.”

Left alone to raise two boys, Van moved to Atlanta in 1990 and took a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs, completing her undergraduate studies and earning a BA in business. Returning to Oklahoma, she began to work for the Air Force Material Command at Tinker AFB as Contract Specialist. Later, she obtain an MS in Management, and was credentialed as an Air Force Contracting Officer. In 2005, she transferred to the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles [today, a component of The United States Space Force (USSF)] and continue to serve as Deputy Chief of several acquisition divisions.

Since 1991, Van has returned to Vietnam many times, maintaining close ties with friends and family and working tirelessly with her brother to solve the mystery of “Baby Sister’s” disappearance. By revealing the harrowing true story of her life, Van renews her vow to help young Vietnamese find more secure lives and better educational opportunities while promoting improved relations between her native and adopted homelands.