“Anyone Can Be American”: From Vietnamese Refugee To White House Lawyer In Thirty-Two Years

Francis "France" Hoang
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France Hoang was not quite two years old, and his sister was barely two months old, when his parents were forced to flee the Republic of Vietnam. His father was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and his mother worked for the U.S. Naval Attaché. One day, her boss told her they had to leave the country immediately. Her husband was faced with a dilemma; flee the country with his wife and two children, or remain and face an uncertain future. After a harrowing incident at the airport in Saigon, the family flew to Guam, and after a brief period of processing, were transported to Camp Pendleton, California. Governor Dan Evans of Washington welcomed the Vietnamese refugees with open arms, and the Hoang family was sponsored by the Petersons, eventually moving to Tumwater, Washington. France’s father worked as a cook at a local hotel before becoming a public servant in the community, and his mother started out as a clerk in the Department of Wildlife, eventually becoming the Comptroller of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. As a boy, France was very active in a wide variety of scholarly pursuits, and enjoyed scouting. From a young age, he cultivated a desire for service, feeling that he needed to repay a debt to the United States. Academy recruiters found his information among a number of possible candidates, and LTG(R) Howard Stone (USMA ’55) reached out to France and encouraged him to apply, serving as his mentor throughout the process. After receiving a Superintendent’s waiver for his eyesight, France joined the Class of 1995. He majored in Management in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, and did very well academically and militarily. He chose Military Police as a branch, and after Ranger School he reported to the 95th Military Police Battalion in Germany, and was assigned to the 272nd Military Police Company. From 1996 to 1997, he was deployed on a peace-keeping mission to Bosnia, where he secured one of the crossing sites on the Sava River and escorted convoys into Bosnia from staging areas. Returning from Germany, he was the Deputy Provost Marshal at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, earning a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and contemplating a future with the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time. He left the Army in 2000, and entered Georgetown Law School. He has since embarked on a career as a lawyer, working in a variety of positions, including clerking for federal judges and the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2007, he became an associate counsel to the President, thirty-two years after leaving Vietnam as a refugee. In 2009, he became the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, but took a leave of absence to deploy to Afghanistan as the executive officer for Michael Waltz’s B Company, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group. Returning to the United States, he became a partner in his own law firm and president of MAG Defense Services. In this interview, France provides the story of his escape from Vietnam and his resettlement in Washington. He talks about his childhood and applying to West Point. He describes his Cadet experiences, including nearly drowning out of West Point. He discusses deploying to Bosnia as a Military Police officer, working with Serbs and Croats, and practicing law in various capacities. He recalls his visit to the White House at the end of his time as associate counsel, and the kindness President George W. Bush showed his grandmother. He shares some experiences from his deployment to Afghanistan, including several close calls. Finally, he reflects on what West Point means to him, providing his thoughts about the West Point journey and the meaning behind the class ring display.

BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS

name Francis "France" Hoang
institution USMA
graduation year 1995
service Military Police
unit 272nd Military Police Company; B Company, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group
specialty Lawyer
service dates 1995 2000
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