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Separated during the Vietnam War, this mother-daughter-reunion was 40 years in the making

Leigh Small had no idea what her mother's name was, let alone she had spent years looking for the little girl she gave up for adoption during Operation Baby Lift in 1975.

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For over 40 years, Nguyen Thi Dep had no idea what happened to her daughter, and Leigh Small had no connection to her biological family. Thanks to DNA testing and modern technology, all that changed in 2019.

Small had connected with a few cousins through Ancestry.com, thinking not much else would come of it. Until one day, she received a message that read: "My DNA says we’re half sisters, I believe we’re sisters, and your Vietnamese mother has been looking for you."

During the Vietnam War, thousands of children were evacuated before the fall of Saigon as part of Operation Baby Lift. Small was one of them.

Soon after receiving the email, Small reunited with her mother digitally. She then decided to go to Vietnam to see her mother for the first time in decades. Their reunion, as Small describes, brought on a complicated mix of emotions.

Above, Small describes the experience, her relationship with her mother and how reuniting with her birth mother has impacted her life.


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