It’s a tale of two brothers in search of their lost identity. Both never knew the other existed. They had been separated by post-Cold War sentiments that existed between America and Vietnam. But, a series of weird dreams inspired by COVID-19 Juan Lewis contracted led to him meeting his half-brother, Phuong Doan.
He had the disease in 2020 when he was working in Germany for NATO. As a result, he ended up in the ICU, where he received a combination of experimental treatments while battling the virus.
Lewis recalled experiencing vivid hallucinations and dreams while fighting for his life. Only five individuals who contracted the disease at the time managed to survive the ICU during that challenging period, according to People.
It took Lewis nearly two years to recover from COVID-19. But, when he did, he decided to embark on a journey to explore his genealogy. He began by joining a genealogy website and submitting his DNA. His motivation came from vivid dreams about a brother; he hoped this step would lead to a significant discovery.
When he logged into the genealogy website, quite shockingly, he found his details matching a supposed lost brother. He was initially doubtful of the revelation, thinking it might be a mistake due to the name that matched his details.
However, based on his military training, he promptly contacted the website to contest the result, but they confirmed that the results were indeed accurate. Upon seeing the Vietnamese name in the DNA match result, Lewis said he recalled his father’s two tours of duty in Vietnam, one of which was around the time of Doan’s birth. Although he had doubts, he was also quite curious about the potential connection.
Lewis indicated that he reached out to Doan via email, informing him that their DNA results suggested they were siblings. In response, Doan explained that he had been collaborating with a genealogist and was actively searching for his father.
During Lewis’s recovery, his brother Doan, who had been living in Minnesota, was also actively pursuing his quest to find his American military police father, who had served in Vietnam during the war.
Doan spent his childhood in Vietnam with his mother and grandmother. His mother provided limited information about his father, only mentioning that they had met while she worked in security, and he was an MP at the nearby military base, Long Bein, near Saigon.
Following the departure of American troops from Vietnam, there was a significant surge in anti-American sentiment, particularly against Amerasian children like Doan. To protect him from both the government and the people who harbored animosity towards anything American, especially mixed-race children, Doan’s mother tried to shield him from the hostility.
As a result, it sowed seeds of fear in Doan’s mother because the government was unwelcoming towards Amerasian children, and she couldn’t protect him indefinitely. Being visibly different from the other kids in the neighborhood made life very challenging for Doan, who yearned to be with his father and prayed for it daily.
The game changer for Doan was the enactment of the Amerasian Homecoming Act in December 1987. This law permitted the children of American servicemen to immigrate to the United States rather than being categorized as refugees. It also allowed entry for those who had a Western appearance, and they were even allowed to bring their family members with them.
Doan and his mother relocated to America in the 90s after completing the required paperwork. Though it lasted for almost two years before their request was approved, that did not quell young Doan’s search for his mother. This desire temporarily hit a snag when his mother fell ill and required frequent hospitalization. It was further scuttled when his mother passed away during this period, leaving Doan without the opportunity to continue their search together.
Doan lost hope of ever finding his father. The only glimpse of hope he carried was his father’s name, Melvin Lewis, which he obtained from immigration paperwork. Despite settling into life in Minnesota, raising three children, and building a new life, Doan continued his persistent efforts to search for his long-lost father.
In his quest to find his father, Doan joined a genealogy website and submitted his DNA for testing, but unfortunately, he received no leads or information in return. In that dead end soon blossomed the opportunity he had always yearned for. It led Lewis to connect with him on the same search for his lost identity.