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    HM2 Michael Siem

    Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class Leonard G Weston | 180611-N-KO533-0024 NORFOLK, Va. (June 12, 2018) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael...... read more read more



    Story by Leonard G Weston 

    USS Bataan (LHD 5)

    An Ancient African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and with the ambitious assistance from family members along with strangers from a different country, the parents of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Siem were able to provide him an opportunity towards achieving his dream.

    Siem’s story begins in 1979 when his parents, Soeun and Bunroeuy Siem along with other family members, escaped the communist ran country of Cambodia seeking safety along the Thailand border. After hiding out for three months his family was transferred to the Khao I Dang refugee camp in Thailand.

    “My family members were being executed [in Cambodia] or used as laborers,” said Siem. “My father managed to sneak my mother and other immediate family members out of Cambodia and crossed the Thailand borders during the middle of the night.”

    In the winter of 1982, after three years in the Khao I Dang Camp, the U.S. Immigration Office granted Siem’s parents admission into the United States, but before moving to the states, they were redirected to Bataan, Philippines to study English at the Morong Refugee Camp.

    “Seven months after arriving in Bataan, I was born in the camp’s hospital,” said Siem. “During our time there, my mother attended English classes and my father worked as an English interpreter in a make shift schoolhouse. While there, my father was able to assist with hundreds of other refugees’ migration into North America.”

    While at Bataan’s Morong Refugee Camp, Siem’s parents developed a close friendship with two Austrian volunteers, Joan and Kathy. Joan taught English to refugees in the encampment while her daughter Kathy worked alongside Siem’s father as an interpreter.

    “Kathy was a big support factor for my family during those times. She generously supported them [Siem parents] financially while my mother was pregnant, and was a lifeline for my parents which further strengthen their bonds,” explained Siem. “Joan eventually headed back, [to Austria] but Kathy stayed behind and became my godmother, giving me the name of her younger brother who had passed away at a young age.”

    Shortly after his mother gave birth to Siem his family was able to move to the U.S. So in the Spring of 1983, Siem’s family relocated to Houston, Texas. Although Siem was too young to remember the explicit details; the horrid tales told to him of Cambodia’s unrest, his family’s executions along with his parent’s plight, fleeing their native land and journey towards a better life in a strange new country; keeps him humble.

    After Siem spent his childhood growing up in Houston, his family decided to move to Covington, Washington where he began his young adult life. Graduating from Kentwood High School in 2001, Siem started working various jobs, but never found his niche.

    “I became a jack of all trades, but I never found satisfaction,” explained Siem. “It wasn’t until I was reunited with my godmother Kathy in 2008, that I found out what I really wanted to do, help people.”

    Several years had passed since Siem left his godmother on the Bataan peninsula with no contact. While at the Morong Refugee Camp, Kathy played a huge part in the Siem family development and transitioning to the United States, even providing them with a small monetary donation to assist with getting them on their feet, once they arrived on American soil.

    “After meeting my godmother I wanted to become a person who acts selflessly and be part of something bigger than himself,” explained Siem. “I immediately became interested in the certified nurse assistant program and enrolled into school and started taking classes in the medical field, where I found my passion for radiology.”

    Siem’s parents always wanted him to go to school and obtain a degree and not struggle like they did while he was growing up, but like so many medical programs, there was a waiting list for radiology classes. Siem then weighed his options on joining the military where he heard good things about advancing his career in the medical field. In August 2011, Siem enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

    “I don’t like sitting in one place being stagnant, I want more out of life, I want to explore and see new places, things and people,” expressed Siem. “This was a big part of why I wanted to join the Navy.”

    Siem checked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) in February after being stationed at Joel T. Boone Branch Health Clinic Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia and serving onboard the support ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). Siem said he really had two choices either the Bataan or Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia and without any hesitation he chose Bataan not only for the history he shares with the namesake peninsula, but the chance to be part of something great.

    “Not only do I get to help others, but I can also travel,” said Siem. “One of my favorite things about the Navy is its diversity and being a part of a bigger team.”

    Working in the medical department can be a daunting task, although Siem is a certified X-ray technician, you can find him aiding patients in need of care, drawing blood and filling prescriptions along with mentoring and providing training to his fellow colleagues. Siem believes in striving towards working excellence.

    “After arriving aboard [Bataan], it was surreal,” said Siem. “Knowing what my parents have endured, I feel grateful of their sacrifice, and being afforded the opportunity to grow up somewhere where I am safe along with the means to provide for my growing family. I never knew what it was like to grow up without food, water, shelter or a safe place to call home and for that, I thank my parents every day.”

    Siem always tells himself, “things may not go my way, but I try giving a 110 percent effort every time and that is the mark I wants to achieve and leave behind before departing Bataan in 2021.”



    Date Taken: 06.17.2018
    Date Posted: 06.17.2018 15:50
    Story ID: 281276
    Location: NORFOLK, VA, US 
    Hometown: COVINGTON, WA, US

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