- Associated Press - Saturday, September 3, 2016

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Trung Trinh lives the American dream each day.

The Vietnam native, who became an American citizen in 1986 and now lives in Bowling Green, can close his eyes and still see the water that surrounded the wooden boat that his father, Hung Trinh, set him inside in 1979 when Trung Trinh was only 6 years old.

Trung Trinh, now 42, spends his days on Campbell Lane inside a new pharmacy building as one of America’s Asian business owners. The U.S. Census Bureau released information that shows that of the 949,318 minority-owned firms with paid employees, more than half - 506,595, or 53.4 percent - are Asian-owned. The findings are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s inaugural Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs.

His father, Hung Trinh was determined to escape the tyranny of 1979 Vietnam with his young family. He had fought with the Americans opposing the North Vietnamese, but the political structure of South Vietnam was crumbling and he feared for his family’s safety, his son explained.

“I asked Dad where we were going,” Trung Trinh recalled of the moment in the boat.

“We are going fishing,” his Dad replied. He later learned it was much more serious.

“Dad had been a prisoner of war and had escaped,” Trung Trinh recalled. “He had to make a life decision - stay in a country of corruption or escape by boat.”

The escape from Vietnam eventually led to Indonesia, Virginia in the United States and finally, Bowling Green, the new home for the young, war-scarred family - Hung, his wife, Cuc, and children Tuyen and Trung.

Trung Trinh said the nearly 10-day, perilous journey to Indonesia in the wooden boat is the great miracle in his life. Pirates robbed the group, who lost money, jewelry and food.

“The boat sank close enough to shore,” he recalled of the near landfall. The group clambered out and waded in waist-deep water to shore. “We lived on the island for 11 months. So many (others) died at sea or were recaptured.”

A journey to Reston, Virginia, in 1980 to meet up with family preceded the Trinh family’s move to Kentucky, he said. Trung Trinh recalls visiting Dumpsters in Reston with his Dad on Saturday mornings. Hung Trinh would find chairs he could upholster while Trung Trinh said he feared an encounter with a large Dumpster truck. Living in a hotel and without a vehicle, the family walked to the grocery and school. Dad obtained an education at a Virginia community college.

Coming to Bowling Green, Trung Trinh recalled during fourth grade at Delafield Elementary School that it hit him just how far he had come from Vietnam, to Indonesia and then the U.S.

“There was a moment. I was studying. It clicked,” he said, realizing the importance of how an education could open doors for him someday. It is a lesson he imparts to his own children.

“This is destiny; this is God’s doing,” said Trung Trinh, a 2002 graduate of Samford University School of Pharmacy in Birmingham, Alabama.

The 1992 Greenwood High School valedictorian graduated in the top 1 percent of his 1996 class at Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He and his wife, Huong, whom he married in 1998, have six children: Leonardo, Leon, Lucas, Landon, Leia and Liannne. Leonardo is already considering pursuing pre-medicine once he graduates from this spring from GHS, Trinh said.

“I am proof that America is the greatest country,” Trinh said.

He said his Asian culture’s philosophy is one of making sure the parents make life better for their children. The independent pharmacy opened in April, and it is Trinh’s opportunity to pay it forward for his six children, just as his father did in setting up Hung Trinh Automotive in Bowling Green for his two children. Trinh’s pharmacy now stands on the same spot as his father’s former automotive repair business.

“My father’s father took his family from A to B. My father took his family from C to D. It is my responsibility to take my family from E to F,” Trinh said. “You measure success on how your kids do.”

Trinh’s relatively new business fits with others in America. Among the 5.4 million U.S. firms with paid employees, 481,981, or 8.9 percent, had been in business for less than two years in 2014, according to the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs.

Inside Trinh Pharmacy, there’s a plaque on one of the walls. Titled “Family,” it notes, “Our refuge from the storm, our link to the past, our bridge to the future.”

Trinh said it’s all about family for him as he takes over the mantle from his dad, who has now retired.

“What you see here,” he said, gesturing around the 2,400-square-foot business. “This is his doing.”

Trinh said his new business emphasizes customer service.

“You offer your personal service to drive your success. I trust in my work ethic. Give me chance to come to my pharmacy and you will not leave,” he said.

Trinh looks at his customers as patients. “We spend the time to help a patient. At the end of the day, we are all patients,” he said.


Information from: Daily News, https://www.bgdailynews.com

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