(From conversation with Glade resident Richard Hoglund about a favorite memory.)
When they recently attended a 50th wedding anniversary celebration near Loudon, TN, Richard and Donna Hoglund, of Fairfield Glade, were able to relive a success story, which was made possible by a caring Oak Ridge congregation 34 years ago. Not knowing what to expect upon arrival, they observed a large tent set up on a meadow to shelter the 300 invited guests. The tent also contained a sound system that could doubtless be heard a mile away, providing music for a dance floor that had been laid down in the grass. Two large roast pigs adorned the head table, waiting while the caterers prepared the meal to come.
“When we arrived, we were met by Seua (a son) before the car engine stopped turning; he led us to our table directly behind his mother and father, where the roast pigs marked the location of the honored guests.” As they were greeted by a half dozen of the Moua family, 30 years of memories with this Laotian family began flooding back. “Our involvement in their lives goes back before we knew each other’s names, way back to their time in the Lowee Refugee Camp in Thailand. The key persons on our side were the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, represented Pastor Mark Eis; and our congregation, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Ridge, represented by Mary Hoglund, congregation president, and the Reverend Harry J. Lorenz, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church. After receiving the filled-out the application and reviewing refugee documents, Pastor Eis found a family which he described as a match made in heaven. The only concern involved the fact that the Moua family consisted of eight children rather than the two children that the congregation had requested. Pastor Eis told Mrs. Hoglund that the ethnic Hmong people do not have small families. He asked us to pray about it before we made a decision, of course our congregation said, “yes,” and the great adventure began. We found that public housing had one brand-new, five-bedroom unit and was happy to have a “responsible” family move into it. The Mouas’ arrival of Oct. 28, 1976 was followed by securing a job for Sy (the father), medical and dental examinations, registration for school, and eventually the purchase of a big black car, which would accommodate the entire family (their arrival in that car sometimes resembled the familiar circus routine), baptism into the Christian faith for the entire family, purchase of a home to accommodate an 11-person family, hundreds of hours of English lessons for Sia (the mother), introduction of a new restaurant business, the China Doll, and so much more. Since the Hoglunds were the “shepherd family” for the refugees, our whole family was involved in assisting during this period of acclimatization, including our three sons.”
The Moua family are members of the ethnic Hmong people, who lived in Laos and fought on the U.S. side during the Viet Nam war. Although the whole family, except for the youngest child Nyoua, was born outside of this country, they all became U.S. citizens in 1982 and consider this nation to be their home. “When I asked Sy one day if he did not wish to move to one of the large Hmong colonies in Minnesota, California, or North Carolina, his answer came quickly, ‘No, father. In those places, the Hmong men sit around all day smoking and talking about moving back to Laos. The old Laos they remember is gone, swept away by the Communists. There is nothing to go back to. America is my country; I am an American citizen now. I want my kids to grow up with the best of the Hmong and American cultures, get educations, and amount to something. Sia and I do not want our kids to run wild and amount to nothing.”
In recognition of the Moua’s 50th anniversary, the Hoglunds included this short note with their anniversary card: “You are a truly remarkable couple. Not just that you have been married for 50 years but that your commitment to each other has produced a strong family with nine children: Long, Va, Kia, Seua, Sang, Cheu, Dy, Ge, and Nyoua. Not one of your children was lost in the 15 years of warfare you endured. All ten of you survived the flight from your home in Laos to sanctuary at Lowee Camp, through near starvation when your children cried for food. You also survived the journey to Oak Ridge and the resettlement experience, although at times you must have questioned what we asked you to do. Now, some 34 years later, your children hold college degrees, have advanced training, and served honorably in the U.S. military. Today they have stable, functioning families and contribute to the society and communities where they live.”
At the 50th anniversary party, each of the “kids” took pains to tell the Hoglunds how much they owed to their family and congregation for successful resettlement. Most of them had a story to tell about how they were influenced and supported by their sponsors. All the Moua children are married and doing well, apparently many of them are in some phase or another of the computing/information business. A few years back, the children who are still in the Knoxville area bought about 20 acres near Loudon. They cut and graveled a road down the center of the land and named it “Sy Moua Way” after their father. After they built two very nice houses on one side of the road, mother, Sia, placed her garden on a small part of the other side in a meadowland on top of a knoll. As it turned out, the rest of the vacant land was perfect for a large tent and lots of parking necessary for the 300 invitees for their parents’ 50th anniversary party. As the hour of toasts to Sy and Sia (90 percent in the Hmong language) began to wind down, the caterers began to carve the roast pigs and the feasting began (not from Sia’s garden this time).
Author’s note: Until I moved to Fairfield Glade, I had never met Richard Hoglund. As it turns out, however, we are both alumni of Ottawa University in Kansas and both studied under some of the same professors. I hope this article will be the first of several articles under the heading of: REMEMBER WHEN. If you would like to share favorite memories with the Glade Sun readers, please ca1l Tom Carter at 459-4957.