Sailor speaks to Asian Heritage at special event

Ordinary Seaman San Le speaks at the Asian Heritage Month event held at the Pacific Fleet Club May 19.

Ordinary Seaman San Le speaks at the Asian Heritage Month event held at the Pacific Fleet Club May 19. Photos by MCpl Chris Ward, MARPAC Imaging Services

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer ~

When Able Seaman San Le, a Naval Communicator of three years, was just 13, he and his family were forced to emigrate from their home in Saigon, Vietnam, to Ottawa when Communists occupied the south part of their home country.

It was the story of this journey, taken at such a young age, that AB Le shared with a room of supporters at the Asian Heritage Month event on May 19, at the Pacific Fleet Club.

“I was honoured and felt so privileged to speak in front of rows of full bar military members,” says AB Le.

He was also touched to find Second World War veterans of Asian descent present at the meeting.

“The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) employs personnel from all walks of life, many from different religious, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds – but we are all connected.”

Once AB Le, his little sister, and his parents arrived in Ottawa in 1998, he says his mother and father worked labour-intensive jobs as dishwashers and bakers. The family also relied on social assistance to help make ends meet. By the age of 16, AB Le had taken his first job delivering newspapers around his neighborhood.

Slowly, he says, the family worked towards financial stability. His parents were able to attend college, his sister became a registered nurse, and AB Le graduated with a degree in chemistry.

“Their dedication and self-improvement inspired me to always keep looking forward,” he says. “With steadfast strength of mind and a dedication to physical fitness, I learned from my family’s journey that life is always challenging, but not insurmountable.”

He later joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) at 29, an organization he has aspired to be part of since his younger days.

“Serving the country that accepted my family, helped us through our hardship and provided us with a strong education is an honourable duty,” he says.

AB Le sailed on board HMCS Vancouver where he met Lieutenant (Navy) Sherwood Yu, Assistant Head of the Logistics department, who would come to the main galley and serve the crew at lunch everyday.

“Mentorship, know your subordinates, set the example,” says AB Le. “These are the main reasons I enjoy my time in the Royal Canadian Navy under sound leadership.”

When AB Le shared his story with his mentor, Lt(N) Yu, now a military co-chair of the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group, Lt(N) Yu opted to make AB Le the lead speaker at the Asian Heritage Month event.

“I felt very connected to all in the room, and I know my message was heard,” he says. “All of us pledged allegiance to the Queen and the Red Maple Leaf. All of us are Canadian. In the end, that’s what the month was about.”

AB Le is now working at the Information Protection Group (IPG) and is looking forward to the new challenges.

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