Where Women Walked
- Tuesday, June 08, 2004
A few weeks after filling out the adoption paperwork, LeAnn received a call from the director of FCVN. "LeAnn, would you be interested in escorting six to eight babies out of Saigon and bringing them back to their adoptive families in America? With your nursing background you're perfect for the job. But you must go knowing you probably won't be able to bring home your own son."
"I'll think and pray about it," LeAnn answered. She hung up the phone, believing this would be a great opportunity to put her skills to good use but feeling disappointed she would come home with her own arms empty.
Still, LeAnn remained faithful to her desire to help these children. She talked it over with her husband, prayed, and decided she should go. Rescuing six to eight babies seemed important enough to justify the trip.
The U.S. State Department assured LeAnn that there had been no acceleration in the war for months and that she would be safe in Saigon. However, shortly thereafter, the war intensified. Televised news showed maps of Vietnam with fierce battles raging near Saigon. The North Vietnamese dropped bombs less than three miles from the city. LeAnn watched the reports, cringing with fear and uncertainty. She wondered if she'd made the right decision.
The day before she was scheduled to leave for Saigon, LeAnn attended church as usual. When the service ended, LeAnn felt utter panic. "Honey, I need to be alone for a little bit," she said to Mark.
"Okay, we'll wait for you outside," he answered. Taking both girls by the hand, he escorted them out of the sanctuary, leaving LeAnn alone.
LeAnn sat on the pew, folded her hands in prayer, and allowed her suppressed tears to flow freely.
All the doubts and worries she had stuffed erupted from inside her like a river overflowing its banks. Her tears trickled over her folded hands as she cried out to God," "Lord, I'm terrified. Please give me a sign if I shouldn't go." Instead, she felt a clear nudge telling her the opposite. As she sat alone in the pew of the dimly lit sanctuary, a warm feeling enveloped her and her tears began to subside. Her breathing slowed to a deeper, calmer pace. Her shoulders and chest relaxed as an unexplainable feeling of courage filled her.
"Okay, Lord," she whispered. "I will go to Vietnam tomorrow."
April 1, 1975
On April Fool's Day, 1975, LeAnn and her friend Carol, also a nurse, left for Saigon.
After a grueling 24 hours of travel, LeAnn descended the airplane steps into a sweltering Saigon. The 106-degree air assaulted her, the intense heat and humidity making it difficult to breathe. Then, as she glanced around at her surroundings, reality struck. She had left a safe, free country and stepped into a dangerous war zone. Camouflage-painted aircraft and vehicles lined the runway. The unpainted airport buildings looked unfriendly. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she tried to wipe away her fear and focus on the task ahead.
As she and Carol entered the airport terminal, Cherie, an FCVN volunteer LeAnn had met in the States, raced up to them, shouting, "I'm so glad to see you two! Did you hear the news? President Ford has okayed a giant baby lift! Instead of taking out a half dozen babies, you're going to help take out nearly 300 in multiple flights … if we're lucky."
LeAnn, overcome with shock and joy, grinned at Carol as they soaked in the news and the importance of their remarkable mission.
"You don't have to fly to Vietnam to make a difference in the world. You can make a meal for a sick neighbor, or baby-sit someone's child. Any act of kindness improves our world." – LeAnn
On their way to the FCVN center, an animated and excited Cherie told them about a planeload of children that had barely gotten out. "The FCVN plane was waiting on the runway for permission to take off. The government hesitated to grant them permission. The plane took off anyway. On hundred and fifty children are on their way to San Francisco!" Cherie explained. "We're also scheduled to be the first evacuation flight out tomorrow. You ladies will be heading home with a plane full of children first thing in the morning."
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