WE ARE A COMMUNITY
We are a community of survivors, thrivers and overcomers created in spite of the oppositions life throws our way.
We stand #stronger2gether ...in spite of the opposition.
OUR FOUNDER'S STORY: ADVERSITY INSPIRES A WAR ZONE SURVIVOR
Former Holdenville, Oklahoma resident Kien Ngo was born in a war zone and made an epic journey to America before he was a teenager. He has turned his adversities into a successful business that supports others that have survived the “oppositions” life has thrown at them. This includes cancer, addiction, divorce, homelessness, loss of job, etc.
Kien was born in Viet Nam in 1970 during the Viet Nam war, which didn’t end until 1975. Although he doesn’t remember much of the war, he still has vivid memories of spending time with his family in an underground bunker his father built to keep them safe from what Kien describes as "the vast and uncalculating devastation" that surrounded them. After the war, the streets were littered with beggars, many missing one or more of their limbs or other parts of their body due to the years of bombing during the war as well as the scattered landmines that were left behind in the rice paddies to be stepped on by innocent civilians. When Kien was nine years old his parents informed him he would soon be taking a trip to see his aunt, who was living in America. Kien recalls being awakened in the middle of the night, everybody whispering and tip-toeing as he left with his sixteen year old uncle, barefooted, walking through the muddy marsh land. He held tightly to his uncle’s hand as they traveled through farmland and rice patties, being careful not to make a sound as they struggled to stay upright. They would stop and hunker down as every little noise, feeling like they were being chased. At one point they heard gunshots. Hours later, with only the moon to guide them, Kien and his uncle reached the edge of the ocean. Using flashlight signals, they next boarded a boat, which transported to another boat, and that boat transported them to yet another boat until they began their first journey. At one point, they were pulled over by the Coast Guard, who searched the boat but did not find them in their hiding place at the bottom-most portion of the boat. Kien later learned that others that had made the same journey had been found, and they endured great pain: the men were beaten, the women raped, and even the children were abused. Some passengers were never seen again. Not wanting to press their luck, the men in charge decided to turn back. This pattern was repeated six times before they barely escaped by the skin of their teeth on the seventh attempt. However, there was little to celebrate. The small wooden fishing boat, filled with men, women and children, faced unimaginable hardships during their journey across the Pacific. They ran out of food the second day of their six day and seven night voyage, surrounded by undrinkable water. Occasionally they would see a large ship and frantically attempt to wave it down, occasionally one would stop, but never approach, and then pull away. “Words cannot begin to explain to you the feeling of being left to die as those massive cargo ships began to get smaller and smaller in the distance.”
Kien states. “Needless to say, it was quite a roller coaster of emotions. Just when all hope had gone and the children were throwing up and at the brink of death, even some of the men were drinking their own urine out of desperation, we found refuge in the islands of Indonesia. We encountered native people who helped feed us and got us help.” The group spent nearly a year being transported from one island to the next, but spent most of their time in a refugee camp. Kien and his uncle finally reached the United States in 1980, but the hardships didn’t end there. Kien’s sponsor, the aunt his parents had entrusted his safety to, was abusive. He doesn’t dwell on the details, but instead skips to when he was 14 and decided his parents would have wanted better for him, so he ran away. By then the uncle he had traveled to America with had married and was living in Holdenville. The rescued Kien, and he spent most of his teenage years living with them. Kien states that he experienced some racism while he was growing up. This included getting spat on and being called derogatory names due to the slant of his eyes. However, he is quick to explain he does not mean to paint Holdenville in a bad light, and the issue wasn’t exclusive to Holdenville. He stresses that, at the same time, there were others who showed him kindness, love, and Godliness. “I met many great people who invested in me and cared for me,” Kien states. “For that, I will always be grateful.” Kien also admits that, even with the best guidance, he made a mistake when he was still in high school. While working at a local retail store he was arrested for embezzlement after he stole a car stereo and spend a few days in jail. This proved to be an eye opening experience.
“In spite of the setback, I knew I had to finish what my parents started in me,” Kien recalls. “I knew I had to do better…I knew I had to be great! I graduated in 1991 and left Holdenville in that pursuit and married my high school best friend, Shelly Harris, a few months later.” The couple has now been together for 25 years. Kien states that he had many corporate jobs, which lead him all over the United States. With a lot of hard work, hustle, and God’s blessings, he has accomplished a lot, even without a college degree (although he admits not having a degree is not his proudest claim). “Life happened and twenty-five years later, I started a company after anticipating my assignment would come to an end…again,” Ken explains. “It reminded me that life won’t always be filled with sun-shiny days and that my life had dealt me one-after-another adversities. It also reminded me that, though my situations are unique to me, we are all dealt adversities, in one way or another.”
The motivational clothing company was created, “on the recognition that we are all stronger than we realize and that no matter what life throws at us (a.k.a. ‘oppositions’) we are stronger together.” Kien states that, although they are a for-profit, they can do whatever they choose with their money, and they choose to better individuals and communities in need. They ask God to lead them in their case-by-case giving. The company is located in Mount Juliet, Tennessee(Nashville suburb), but their sales and giving reach all over the United States. For example, the Survivor Apparel Facebook page recently featured a 3 1/2 month old baby from Alabama that was born with a congenital heart defect and has been fighting for his life that they chose to help. Former Holdenville resident Scotti Jo Johnson serves as Brand Ambassador for the company Kien created. She recently represented the company at a SHRA (Southwest Heritage Racing Association) event in Denton, Texas to raise awareness of October being Breast Cancer Month. She was joined by another former Holdenville resident, Jeff Allen, a Nitro Monkey Nostalgia Dragster driver at the event.
I’ve always thought I should have been dead many times, but through the Grace of God, I’ve survived, thus Survivor Apparel was born,” Kien concludes.
*Article by Bob Melton, The Holdenville News, November 13, 2016