Krystin hiking up to Boxcar Cornice in Crystal Mountain’s Southback zone with her mother, Liên


Hùynh Family

Be Free: How Skiing Became One Family’s Unlikely American Dream

The U.S. Air Force cargo plane from Saigon was packed with row after row of refugees. It was April 1975 and the South Vietnamese capital was about to fall to the North Vietnamese Army, largely ending the Vietnam War. On the plane, sisters Cúc Kim Hùynh, then 16, and Liên Kim Hùynh, then 18, their parents and four more siblings were fleeing for fear of persecution, leaving behind most of their extended family and the only home they’d ever known. Cúc clutched a family photo album, her only personal possession.

“We were overwhelmed with sadness and the thought of having no country,” Liên says. “This feeling was indescribable; it was like losing a family member.” 

Upon arriving in the United States, the Hùynhs spent three months in tents at a makeshift refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. The family moved to Inglewood, in southwestern Los Angeles, where they learned English and got whatever jobs they could—taxi driver, busboy, typist. Cúc and Liên finished school—Cúc went on to study engineering, while Liên learned computer programming…

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