I Am the Daughter of a Refugee


(The Story of Tia Stockton by Mary Alysse Dodds) 

Tia FamilyI don’t often think of myself as the daughter of a refugee. I’m just an American. Still, I smiled reading my local paper when I saw some are giving Syrian refugees the chance that my family had been given.

Then words like “leech,” “burden,” “lazy,” and “foreign” reached out and slapped me in the face. People threw complaints like a punch in the gut.

Refugees are “destroying America.” They’re “ISIS terrorists,” “a danger,” stealing the resources from the local poor.

“They will not be expected to EVER work, to EVER pay for their education,” one commenter spewed.

Is that what they think of me, the daughter of a Vietnamese refugee? I went to college without government funding. I married a Marine and wore his old dress blue buttons as earrings at our wedding.

Tia WorkingNow, we’re a simple, working mom and dad in hippy Missoula, Montana. Baby London spends her days with me at the floral studio while Tyler is at law school or work. Soon London will be playing in our treehouse, growing her own roots in the community we love.

I don’t often think about having a community to call home. But, reading the venom towards displaced refugees, I realized I am only here because someone helped my dad. Thank you.

Tia HomeThank you for seeing my dad and his family as hardworking, valuable people even when prejudice against Vietnamese ran high. Thank you for offering your homes, your time, and your money to give my dad and my uncles the opportunity to become machinists, dentists, insurance agents, and civil engineers.

You gave my dad safety and opportunity when his homeland abused and expelled him.

My dad doesn’t talk much about the horrors of being a refugee, but I remember his simple statements. His mother died when he was twelve. He said climbing the slippery coconut tree was more terrifying than nearby bombs.

I don’t know how often my dad ate as a boy or how hard he worked at the bicycle shop and sugar factory. But I know his family was poor, and tickets on a smuggler’s boat were expensive. My grandfather worked for years at the umbrella shop to earn passage for his ten-person family. I imagine those years were filled with darkness and mistreatment since my dad’s oldest brother served in the losing South Vietnamese army. But my dad never really told me.

I don’t know what the boat ride was like. Once, dad said it stank below deck and above the waves threatened death. He spent four days on the open sea before he arrived in Indonesia where the refugee camp was too full for him.

I can only imagine his trip was similar to the overcrowded Syrian rafts that arrive on unwelcoming shores with death in their wakes.

Later, his family was sponsored by a Minnesotan family. In America he met my mother. He and all of his siblings obtained skilled employment. His children and all of his nieces and nephews attended top-tier colleges.

Thank you for providing a safe place and believing in the success of my family. Everything I have—my Marine husband, my spunky daughter, my community—is a result of caring people lending a hand.

I may not know what refugees go through. But I know what they become—some of the hardest working Americans I know.

Tia RunA special thank you to Tia Stockton for allowing me to write this feature. Tia is a wife, mother, floral designer, who lives in the wonderfully hippy Missoula, Montana. She enjoys working her 600 square foot garden, knitting, cooking, and running. When she’s not working 50+ hours in wedding season or taking care of her red-trimmed, yellow home, she shares her secrets of knitting and eating healthfully on her blog

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