From Vietnam to MSU, a Spartan's journey
The continuation of the Vietnam War commemoration period, which began in 2015 and included this year’s PBS broadcast of the new Ken Burns documentary “The Vietnam War,” brought America’s involvement during one of the most difficult periods in history to the forefront. Rarely mentioned are the Vietnamese children who escaped the violence of the region.
MSU's Dana Flink, the Residence Hall Association business office manager and an MSU alumna, was one of these children. While every Spartan follows a different path that leads to MSU, Flink took a particularly interesting route.
She was placed in an orphanage in Vietnam at a very young age. In April 1975, when Flink was just four months old, President Gerald R. Ford put “Operation Babylift” into effect. More than 10,000 Vietnamese children were evacuated from orphanages in South Vietnam and sent to America to be adopted.
Flink was among these children.
With no memories or possessions from Vietnam, Flink did not even have a definite name as she arrived in the United States wearing a hospital wristband.
“My hospital wristband had one name, but my birth document had a different name. I actually came over without an official birth certificate. I only had photocopies of what’s called a ‘birth extract,’—which was the equivalent of a birth certificate—and the names didn’t match up,” she explained.
Flink was adopted by a Jewish family from West Bloomfield, Michigan. Flink said her mother was a wildly avid Spartan fan, which is where Flink’s love for MSU began.
“She was the biggest Spartan football fan I’ve known in my lifetime,” Flink said of her mother, Renee, who passed away four years ago. “We weren’t allowed to talk to her during the games. She’d shush us!”
When it was time for Flink to attend college, MSU was the clear choice. While she was a student, she was a resident assistant, and her Spartan pride continued to grow throughout her time here.
“My love for Michigan State is enormous,” said Flink, who lives in Okemos with her husband, Michael, and their children, Zachary and Sarah. “MSU is my happy place. It’s my connection to my mother.”
As the Residence Hall Association business office manager, Flink has many responsibilities at MSU. She provides administrative support to RHA by assisting in the office’s communications with a broad range of University and public contacts, and handling all organizational and financial data and record keeping. Flink additionally deals with all of RHA’s accounting and financial needs, and aids in the hiring of RHA employees.
Flink is one of many who found homes in the United States. The only remaining evidence of Flink’s time in Vietnam is a strong aversion to war and a fear of thunder; many other children were older and had more developed memories when Operation Babylift brought them to America.
Like Flink’s, their stories are just now being shared, and some of them may be closer than you think.