- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (AP) — Tanya Bakal has spent much of her life running from Nguyen Thu Kim Phung.

Three decades ago, she left that name in Vietnam, along with her biological mother and her culture, when she was airlifted out as part of the wartime ?Operation Babylift.? Next month, she hopes to find them all.

Mrs. Bakal’s search will take her about 10,000 miles away to Saigon, now renamed Ho Chi Minh City, with 19 other orphans from the first wave of the effort that eventually brought more than 3,000 Vietnamese children to the United States.

They don’t speak the language, many of their names have changed, and some — including Mrs. Bakal — don’t even know their real birthdays.

?Everyone has a beginning,? said Mrs. Bakal, who thinks she is 31. ?I want to find mine.?

As a toddler, Mrs. Bakal was among the 57 children — mostly babies, all orphaned or given up by their parents — on the April 2, 1975, flight made by Ed Daly, former president of World Airways. The plane took off from a pitch-black runway, and its lights were kept off in the air to keep the Vietnamese military from shooting it down.

The Vietnam flight next month was arranged by Atlanta-based World Airways for 20 of the orphans on the first flight.

Until recently, Vietnam was just a birthplace for Mrs. Bakal, her journey out of Saigon simply a footnote in her life, not a defining moment.

Vietnam War adoptee Wendy Greene, who will be on the flight with Mrs. Bakal next month, has been to Vietnam before and is making the trip with her adopted mother, Cheryl. Miss Greene says she’s not searching for her biological roots.

?I never really needed to go down that road,? said Miss Greene, 30. ?I want to thank all the heroes that got us over here. That’s what’s most important to me. We really are all miracle babies.?

Long before talk of a return to Vietnam, Mrs. Bakal began searching for information about her birth mother.

For weeks, she has run an ad in a Vietnamese newspaper with her baby picture, hoping her biological mother would recognize it and come forward. Mrs. Bakal is hopeful that her return also will mean a reunion, or at least answers to questions she is now ready to ask.

?I took this for granted when I was growing up, but now I really feel like I’m a part of history,? she said. ?It would be so neat to be out there and actually meet my mother.?

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