Texas Connects Us: The Sacrifice to Serve

A Lewisville man's struggle to get to the United States was difficult, but looking back at his past and looking ahead to what the future holds for his son, he says everything was worth it.

Kan Thang is a native of Burma, a Buddhist country south of China that borders Thailand, in which Christians are under constant religious persecution.

"Yes, it's dangerous," said Thang, who always wanted a better life for his wife and three sons.

"It's not like here, it's different," remembers Thang's youngest son, Peng Thang. "Out of nowhere the military – with guns – would show up with guns at your church and that's it. If they said stop, you stop, or you're dead pretty much."

Kan Thang left Burma and sought refuge in Malaysia, where he worked for nearly 10 years, saving money and never speaking to those he loved most.

"We don't have phone, we don't email, so I cannot contact my family," he recalled.

Peng Thang was too young to understand.

"We'd see our friend's dads building things for them or doing things for them, and we wanted it too," he said.

Eventually the family saved up enough money and moved to North Texas. It was a big change culturally.

"My first time seeing a car, we had to hide because we didn't know what it was," Peng Thang joked. "We jumped off the side of the road and we had to hide because we were afraid."

It's a distant memory now. Peng Thang later joined the JROTC program at Lewisville High School, dreaming of someday serving his new country.

"The reason for me being here, my family being here, is because of those great men and women that serve this country, because of that freedom they provide. They give their lives so people from a foreign country can be here freely, so I ask myself why can't I do the same thing," he said.

Next week he'll start that journey at the Naval Academy Preparatory School, or NAPS.

During a recent Burmese refugee ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the former president greeted the future United States sailor.

"You can handle it. I'm proud of you," Bush told Peng Thang.

And for the dad who gave up so much, the pride is hard to put into words.

Kan Thang fought back tears as his son Peng said, "If you look at it now, it was all along God's plan. This is where I say God answered my prayers."

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