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Seattle man who left Saigon in 1975 wants to help Afghan refugees

Tony Nguyen was evacuated from Vietnam when the United States withdrew from the country 46 years ago.

SEATTLE — A Seattle man who was evacuated from Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975 now wants to help Afghan refugees arriving in Washington state.

"I feel sorry for those people you know, because they are innocent and so they need help and I think we should open up our hearts," Tony Nguyen said.

Nguyen, then 15 years old, left Saigon in a plane during the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam 46 years ago. He arrived in Guam for a stop before he was brought to the U.S. Marine base in Camp Pendleton north of San Diego and eventually settled in California.

"I graduated high school there, and college there," Nguyen said.

Nguyen went on to become a U.S. Citizen and raised a family in California before joining his brother in Seattle to help with a food truck business in 2001.

The images of Afghans desperate to board a plane out of Kabul were troubling for Nguyen, who now wants to help refugees arriving in Washington.

"I think it's time for me and for us to pay back the community because that's what we've been through and people helped us," Nguyen said.

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Organizations like Lutheran Community Services Northwest have already coordinated 24 refugee arrivals last week with more to come, according to LCSN CEO David Duea.

"This is going to be a heavy lift for months, if not years," Duea said.

Duea said many arrivals are in the process of settling in the south Sound area upon arrival at Sea-Tac Airport. He said the organization has been overwhelmed with calls asking about volunteer opportunities.

"They need someone that can take all of the phone calls, we're looking for host homes, we're looking for volunteers to go look up furniture, we're looking for storage to store furniture," Duea said.

Duea said they are looking for volunteers who can commit two to four weeks time, something Nguyen said he is more than willing to do.

"I would do anything if they would need me, you know. I'm okay with that," Nguyen said.

More information on volunteer opportunities can be found by clicking here.