The Inmate. My Brother. My Hero.

I’m not quite sure what a family with someone in prison is supposed to look like. In my case, people are surprised when they find out that I have an incarcerated brother. You can imagine their mouths dropping to the ground when they hear that he’s been imprisoned for the last 30 years... and still counting.


It's interesting what I remember from years ago. I remember my favorite yellow dress. I remember the night my mom went into labor with my little brother. I remember my older brother always bringing home a chocolate chip cookie from his lunch for me. I vividly remember the first time I visited my eldest brother in county jail after he was 'caught' by the police after his incident.
I remember walking through the bustling county jail was intimidating. Random people were waiting their turn, and others were pacing up and down the hallway. I sat down next to my mom and waited for my eldest brother, Huy, to come out and meet us on the other side of the 4-foot plexiglass window. About 20 minutes passed when I finally saw someone who looked like my brother sit down across from us. I gasped in horror and both my mom and I started to cry. My 19-year-old brother was unrecognizable. His face was swollen with bruises, causing his eyes to barely open. His face was full of cuts and dried blood. In my head, I thought, "What did they do to you?"
During the early 1990s, kick-door burglaries involving Asian gangs were prevalent in Houston, Texas. The multiple policemen likely held a prejudiced perspective of my brother as they violently assaulted him during his arrest.
My brother was hanging out with the wrong people, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. My parents were Vietnam refugees and didn't understand the complexities of US law; they didn't know who to call or even where to find a good lawyer. Following the string of bad luck, Huy was given a life sentence.  

Being My Hero

So how could someone incarcerated possibly be my hero? From the moment Huy was locked up, we've stayed connected through visits and phone calls. Unbeknownst to him, Huy taught me invaluable life skills that can't be acquired through an internship, apprenticeship, or even an MBA. I've witnessed Huy grow over the years and he's my constant reminder that having the right mindset will overcome any obstacle. I admire his approach to living life to the fullest and he's shown that it isn't dictated by his limitations. In a place full of rules, restrictions, brut, and sometimes violence - he's grown into a brilliant, resourceful, and caring man. He's taken every opportunity to grow and learn, and he's attained multiple academic degrees, including a bachelor's in psychology and an associate's in sociology. Huy has also honed in on his artistic talents; from learning how to airbrush to creating large murals that decorate the prison unit's ministry. His journey of personal growth has been remarkable.
The most valuable lesson I've learned through Huy's strength is the true meaning of resiliency, adaptability, perseverance, and patience.
My brother is an example that not all heroes wear capes, and for me, not all heroes are in the 'free world'.