Student Affairs Staff: Dana Flink's Journey from Vietnam to MSU

November 6, 2017
  • Dana Flink was among the very last people to escape Vietnam before Saigon fell.
  • She grew up in West Bloomfield a lifelong MSU fan.
  • As an MSU student, served on RHA, the group with whom she now works on campus.
Shortly after landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Flink is cradled in the arms of her mother, Renee.

Shortly after landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Flink is cradled in the arms of her mother, Renee.

The continuation of the Vietnam War commemoration period, which began in 2015 and included this year’s PBS broadcast of the new Ken Burns documentary “The Vietnam War,” has brought America’s involvement in one of the most difficult periods of history back into the light. One thing not often mentioned when discussing the Vietnam War, however is the Vietnamese children who were able to escape its violence.

One such child was Dana Flink, the Residence Hall Association Business Office Manager here at MSU and an MSU alumna. While every Spartan follows a different path on their journey to MSU, Flink took a particularly interesting route.

She was placed in an orphanage in Vietnam at a very young age. In April 1975, when Flink was just 4 months old, President Gerald R. Ford put “Operation Babylift” into effect. More than 10,000 Vietnamese children were evacuated from orphanages in South Vietnam and sent to America to be adopted. Flink was one of these lucky children.

Flink said she came here with no memories or possessions from Vietnam. She did not even have a definite name.

As a child both in Vietnam and the start of her time in the U.S., Flink was very sick. This had her in and out of the hospital, so she actually came to the United States wearing a hospital wristband.

“My hospital wristband had one name, but my birth document had a different name. I actually came over without an official birth certificate. I only had photocopies of what’s called a ‘birth extract,’—which was the equivalent of a birth certificate—and the names didn’t match up,” she explained.

Upon her arrival in the United States, Flink was adopted by a Jewish family from West Bloomfield, Michigan. Flink said her mother was a wildly avid Spartan fan, which is where Flink’s love for MSU began.

Story continues after the photo

Flink and her brothers, Mike and Tony Adler, pose with their father, Robert.

Flink and her brothers, Mike and Tony Adler, pose with their father, Robert.

“She was the biggest Spartan football fan I’ve known in my lifetime,” Flink said of her mother, Renee, who passed away four years ago. “We weren’t allowed to talk to her during the games. She’d shush us!”

When it was time for Flink to attend university, MSU was the clear choice. While she was a student here, she was a resident assistant, and her Spartan pride continued to grow throughout her time here.

“My love for Michigan State is enormous,” said Flink who lives in Okemos with her husband, Michael, and their children Zachary and Sarah. “MSU is my happy place. It’s my connection to my mother.” She said she feels lucky to be able to work in here everyday.

As the Residence Hall Association business office manager, Flink has many responsibilities at MSU. She provides administrative support to RHA by assisting in the office’s communications with a broad range of University and public contacts, and handling all organizational and financial data and record keeping. Flink additionally deals with all of RHA’s accounting and financial needs, and aids in the hiring of RHA employees.

Flink is one of many who found homes in the United States, thanks to President Ford’s efforts. The only remaining evidence of Dana’s time in Vietnam are strong aversion to war and a fear of thunder, but many other children were older and had more developed memories when Operation Babylift brought them to America.

Like Flink’s, their stories are just now starting be shared, and some of them may be closer than you think.

The Flink family--husband Michael with Zachary and Sarah--gathered for a portrait at the time of Zachary's bar mitzvah.

The Flink family--husband Michael with Zachary and Sarah--gathered for a portrait at the time of Zachary's bar mitzvah.

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