116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In 1974, a traumatized 13-year-old stepped over our threshold. He had few teeth, didn’t hear well and spoke little English. He struggled, as refugee kids do, learning new customs and laws in a land where people looked like “giants” and ate strange food. Afraid of starving, he hid bananas under his bed; at night, the horrors of war haunted his dreams. Finding a home in Iowa was the start of a safe new life for him.
He worked his way through many jobs: Kirkwood, Camp Wapsie, Cedar Memorial, and Merchants National Bank. By age 16, Kiwanis honored him with a “Citizenship Award.” After high school, he kept a 3.4 GPA at Kirkwood in spite of language difficulty. After graduating, he took a job at Rockwell, using their scholarship assistance program to enroll at Mt. Mercy.
This once frightened refugee kid has now retired from Rockwell. Over time, he has paid thousands of dollars in taxes, contributes to our economy and votes, gives of his time and resources freely. Being his American parents has been a privilege.
Thanks to former Gov. Ray for saying, “YES” to Vietnamese refugees. They have made Iowa a better place. Thumbs-down to Gov. Kim Reynolds for saying, “NO! It’s not our problem.” FYI, governor, caring for children in peril is a humanitarian imperative, not a state budgeting, or petty, tit-for-tat partisan issue. Iowans put the “heart” in Heartland! Don’t lock the door and throw away the key on refugee kids. We are far better than that!
Norman and Donna Barnes