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Symbol of Vietnamese 'boat people' stopping into town



Ba Luong hopes that Oklahoma City's Vietnamese community will remember their heritage when the Vietnamese Freedom Boat, a traveling display of a boat used by South Vietnamese refugees to flee after the takeover of their country by Communists in the Seventies, makes its stop here Saturday and Sunday at Luong's Super Cao Nguyen grocery.

Luong's family as well as others in the Vietnamese community are hosting the boat as a part of the display's 50-state tour of Vietnamese communities throughout the United States. The boat is a 33-foot-long wooden fishing vessel common to Southeast Asia, one of two that landed on the Philippines in 1981, together carrying 34 men, 20 women and 11 children.

"This is where we came from and this is where we are at now, and this is why we are better because of it."

The boat now belongs to a California nonprofit organization, the Vietnamese Cultural House, headed by Madalenna Lai, herself a Vietnamese refugee. Luong said the woman bought the boat several years ago by selling her home, and after some difficulty, managed to get it admitted to the Tournament of Roses parade in 2002.

Visiting the display is free. For more information, call 525-7650. "Ben Fenwick

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