It was 1964 and a war broke out in Laos, Asia. Vue Xiong, along with his family, had to make decisions that would ultimately result his losing track of his oldest brother and his mother and father. In May of 1975, they lost the country to the Vietnamese. If you were from Laos, you were considered a refugee, and there was a plane you could get on to travel to Thailand. If you did not make it to the plane, you did not go.
Vue did not make it to the plane, but he was determined to meet back up with the family he had lost. So, Vue traveled with his cousins and brothers to walk through the woods. As Vue tearfully recalls his experience, he says they would walk every single day by sending a scout forward and then returning to say it was safe, then make camp, and then do it over again the next day for months. They ate the small amount of rice they brought with them along with whatever they could hunt or find in the wilderness.
“Sometimes I would just get lucky by traveling straight instead of turning a certain way,” Vue said. He and what was left of his family arrived in Thailand in September of 1975 where he stayed for 4 years.
At the end of that 4 years, Vue found out that he had received a sponsorship from Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Danville, Illinois, United States of America. The sponsorship came from a well-known local businessman, “Big Jim” Darby. In the sponsorship “Big Jim” said he would bring Vue to the States and give him a job and a place to live. As Vue touched down in January for the first time on American soil, “Big Jim” was the first American he saw.
“I just didn’t know what to say. So, I said, ‘Hey, sir! What is so white? Is it snow?’ I thought snow was big chunks of ice!”
After being brought into the Darby family, Vue received his Social Security number, a home, and on February 5, 1980, he received his very first paycheck making 4 dollars per hour. Forty-two years later, Vue has been working for Trigard, has a wife and 4 sons, and has made his home here in Vermilion County.
“This company is my family; ‘Big Jim’ is my family,” he says.
Scott Dowers, coworker and “family” to Vue, says that “Vue is the kind of person where nothing is wasteful. We cut a piece of board, Vue takes it home. He’s the most efficient person I’ve ever met. He always thinks way ahead.”