Col. Lapthe C. Flora was promoted to brigadier general at the
National D-Day Memorial June 6, 2016, in Bedford, Virginia.
Flora, a native of Saigon, is the first Vietnamese boat person to be
promoted to general officer in the United States Army and the second
of Vietnamese descent. He most recently served as the commander
of the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling Green-based 91st Troop
Command and will serve as the Assistant Adjutant General for
Strategic Initiatives. The following are excerpts of Brig. Gen. Lapthe
Flora’s promotion speech:
“The promotion ceremony this morning is indeed a bittersweet
event for me. I wish my parents, sister Cam-Lien and brother Minh-
The were here to share it with us, especially my father, Maj. John
Lewis Flora, Jr. of 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division
that landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France 72 years ago today.
I know, he and my mom, Audrey, are watching from heaven with
amusement and pride that the poor little ‘boat refugee’ boy they had
adopted is now an American General.
I am blessed beyond belief to see so many of my dear friends
and families here this morning. I want all of you to know that you
have either directly and or indirectly paved the way for me to be
honored here today, and I am profoundly grateful for your presence.
This should serve as a testament that I did not reach this milestone
on my own. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking
your precious time off and traveling great distances to share this
momentous occasion with both me and my family.
I am keenly aware of the historical significance of today’s
ceremony and am deeply grateful for the honor and recognition, but
today’s event should serve as an affirmation of faith in the American
Dream. The possibility in this great nation is boundless; the American
Dream is real, only if you dare to pursue it with laser focus, hard work
It seems like just yesterday that I had arrived in this country as
a traumatized and penniless Vietnamese ‘boat refugee’ who spoke
not a single word of English. But what I had then and still have, to
this day, is an enormous sense of gratitude and desire to give back to
America for her priceless gift of freedom and a second chance in life.
There are no words in any language that can adequately describe the
euphoric moment I felt when we landed in the USA. And thus, ladies
and gentlemen, without a doubt, this is heaven on earth…
To all my fellow Americans, I thank you from the bottom of
my heart for your generosity, empathy and courage for welcoming
us boat people into your communities as your neighbors, friends,
colleagues, comrades, and fellow citizens.
To our veterans, especially the VietnamVeterans of America and
Vietnam Veterans of the Republic of Vietnam, to you all… we owe
a great debt, one infinitely larger than can ever be repaid. My fellow
veterans, you are guardians of peace, a bulwark of liberty, and the
beacon of light for those in dark places. Your devotion to duty and
dedication to serve your fellow men has inspired me and thousands
of my fellowVietnamese-Americans to follow in your footsteps since
our arrival in this great country. The universal cry for freedom we are
seeing in the world today is in no small part due to the example you
set on those distant battlefields.
On behalf of my family, I thank you for your gift of liberty and the
opportunity to pursue our happiness. Your patriotism, sacrifices and
selfless service to defend our constitution, to preserve the freedom
and our way of life, is honorable and appreciated.
We will never forget you. There is a proverb in Vietnamese that
says…. ‘An Trai Nhoc Ke Trong Cay’, which loosely translates to,
‘as you enjoy the fruits, always remember the people who planted it.’
To my dear friends, brother rats, comrades and colleagues, I
thank you for your friendship, guidance, support and encouragement.
I could not have gotten this far without you. As people would say, it
takes a village to raise a child, but in my case it took a Nation to raise
this General. I am very grateful to all of you…
To my fellow Citizen Soldiers, I am so humbled and honored
to have served with many of you for nearly 28 years. I am equally
thankful for those valuable lessons and personal counsel. All of you
From Saigon to Brigadier General
Article and photos courtesy of Cotton Puryear,
State Public Affairs Officer, Virginia National Guard