MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It was a meeting 50 years in the making. Thursday, Vietnam veteran Harold Setser finally came face-to-face with the daughter he was forced to leave behind in Vietnam in 1971.
The late-night reunion took place at Memphis International Airport. Phuong Nguyen and her two sons, Anthony and Steven Van Doan, flew from Connecticut to Memphis to meet Setser.
To say Setser was excited was an understatement.
“I’m so happy to find my daughter. It’s been a long time,” said Setser. “For me, the war is finally over.”
Setser was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War when he met Nguyen’s mother. He left the Air Force and went directly to a civilian job as a contractor, but he had to leave the country when his visa expired. Nguyen was just four months old at the time.
Setser said he never forgot about his daughter and never stopped looking for her.
“I looked for her through various places even before the internet, but I was looking for the wrong name. She was adopted. So, I was looking for the wrong name,” said Setser. “If it hadn’t been for the DNA test, I never would have found her.”
About 15 years ago, Setser took a DNA test through AncestryDNA, but didn’t have any luck. Then last year, Nguyen’s son, Steven, decided to take his own test and also used AncestryDNA. Right away, he found a match.
“I was just curious, a curious man. You know, what am I? And then I found my grandpa,” said Steven Van Doan.
Setser said he began talking regularly to his new family members through phone calls and video chats, but due to COVID-19 had to put any plans for a reunion on hold.
“It’s super exciting. Amazing,” said Anthony Van Doan. “My mom wanted to meet her actual dad and never got the chance.”
Setser said he plans to show his daughter and grandsons Beale Street, and his daughter has also promised to make him some Vietnamese food while they’re in Memphis. He said they have lots of lost time to make up for.
“Last time I saw her, she was this big,” said Setser, holding out his arms. “She’s all grown up.”