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In US Ship's Visit, a Commander's Homecoming

U.S. Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz serves as a commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin.

When the US naval ship USS Mustin docks in Cambodia next month, it will be a homecoming for the the destroyer's commander.

Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz was adopted by an American woman in 1973, as Cambodia fell to the war and the oncoming Khmer Rouge. He was raised in the US and has not returned home in 37 years.

“The purpose of the trip to Cambodia is to develop and further the relationship between the United States and Cambodia...and it’s a special trip because the Mustin is commanded by a Cambodian-American,” Misiewicz told VOA Khmer by phone from aboard his ship. “We'll help train some of the Royal Cambodian Navy and military, and we're also going there to do community relations projects.”

The USS Mustin, based in Yokusuka, Japan, is a guided missile destroyer, carrying 300 sailors onboard. The December visit to Cambodia comes on the heels of a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, this month.

“I know it's going to be very emotional,” said Misiewicz, who was born in Kandal province but was adopted by an American woman whom his aunt worked for.

Misiewicz, whose given name is Vannak Khem, went to school in the US, not knowing what became of his family after the Khmer Rouge came to power. He graduated high school, joined the US Navy, and later went on to the Naval Academy, earning his officer's commission in 1992.

When he returns to Cambodia, he will be reunited with his aunt. His father was executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1977, but his birth mother now lives in Texas with her family.