Trung Nguyen knew he wanted to serve in the military on September 11, 2001.
The first-generation American was sitting in class in Jackson County when the news of the terrorist attacks on both the twin towers at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were announced.
No one in the class said a word until the teacher finally broke the silence.
“He started explaining to us what actually went down and everything, and at that point, I felt like it was a calling,” Nguyen said. “It was something that I knew I needed to do.”
As soon as he walked across that stage and received his diploma, Nguyen enlisted in the United States Navy. A dream of his had been achieved, however, some dreams are meant to be broken.
“I got in and after six months, I was discharged because of stress fractures in both of my legs,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen described it as a low moment in his life. The Navy would not allow him to graduate due to medical reasons, so he was essentially “held back.”
“I felt like my dream was crushed,” Nguyen said. “I observed several classes graduate before me. It was rough just watching that, knowing the fact that you’re sitting here waiting to graduate, but you can’t because of medical reasons.”
Nguyen left the Navy and returned to his home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he became an officer for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. Although he was now in a completely different line of work, Nguyen knew he would one day return to the armed forces.
“After I got out [of the Navy], I told myself I would recuperate and try again one day,” Nguyen said.
Try again is exactly what he did, but his second try came under unforeseen circumstances.
“One day, I was actually going to the Gulfport Readiness Training Center for the International Guard…for an actual training course for law enforcement,” Nguyen said. “As I was going through the gate, I met one of my buddies Joshua Parker. I hadn’t seen him for like years, and we ended up talking for a little bit.”
That conversation turned into the encouragement Nguyen needed to make a return to the military.
“Me and him connected, and one thing after another, I ended up enlisting in March of 2018 and been in since,” Nguyen said.
Since that March, Nguyen has not just been a member of the Mississippi National Guard; he has been one of the most successful members of the Mississippi National Guard, recently earning the Best Warrior Award.
It is more than apparent that Nguyen does not give up on his dreams and what continues to inspire him are the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country—the sole reason for Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day is important,” Nguyen said. “I feel like it’s our responsibility to continue their legacy and take on the responsibility to protect the nation. What they have done for us is provide us with our freedom and democracy we have here in the United States, so it is very important to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
You can listen to Airman Nguyen tell his story using the video below.