For the first time since my family arrived in this country as refugees in 1975, I will spend this Father's Day without my American father. Those of you who follow my story know that I am referring to Colonel Bill Ochs, who sponsored our family's immigration to this wonderful country.
You may remember my interview with him from October 2010. When Bill died earlier this year, my world became a dimmer place. Though knowing Bill, he would not want me to stay somber -- he conducted each day of his life without regret and I strive to honor his legacy by doing the same.
No Regrets, Only Hope
Though not related by blood, we were bound by something perhaps more remarkable ... by choice. When the Red Cross telephoned Bill with the news that a Vietnamese family had mentioned his name as someone who may want to sponsor their family's immigration to the United States, he could have immediately refused. He could have remarked that he hadn't ever heard of the Tran family.
It would have been the truth, for he had no memory of my father, although they served in the military together in Vietnam eight years earlier. Bill might have dismissed the request as a mistake, as absurd, or simply as too much trouble. Then, that would be the end of that -- of us.
|Bill Ochs and AnnTran. Photo Courtesy of Ann Tran|
But that just wasn't Bill.
Instead, he discussed the request with his wife, Betty, and they both came to the same conclusion, "We'd rather regret having done it than not regret for not having done it." I'm sure he felt some anxiety about taking on such a daunting responsibility. But brave men of character do not shy away from doing the hard thing -- the right thing. And Bill was one of the bravest, most honorable men I've ever met. I feel incredibly blessed to have known him and his family so intimately.
Living with no regrets has become a popular refrain of late, among extreme athletes or high-profile figures. For some, this philosophy has even become an excuse for poor behavior. But for me, thanks to Bill's example, the phrase has become an almost sacred mantra.
If Bill had not actively chosen to take on the awesome responsibility of sponsoring an entire family, from a foreign country and completely unknown to him, I would likely have some serious regrets. The course of my life, and that of my family's, would have gone down a much darker and uncertain path.
But he did choose to answer the call. He did choose to step outside of his comfort zone and into the unknown. He did this largely because he did not want to have any regrets himself. He treated me as if I were his own daughter from the moment I stepped foot in this country. I thought of his wife and his kids as my siblings, and still do.
So . He taught me to live a life of good, courage, and honor -- to inspire others by sharing how others inspire me -- to live with no regrets.