JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF) — For many of the survivors of the tornado 10-years ago, losing everything was the worst thing that had ever happened to them. But for one Joplin man, it wasn’t the first time.

Tsang Dat Nguyen was one of seven residents selected by the ABC show Extreme Home Makeover to receive a new home after the structure he was living in at the time was leveled.

“I only thank God who gave me the house for the rest of my life because at this time I was 70 years old,” he says.

If you think this is the first time he’s lost everything, you’d be wrong.

In fact, it’s not even close to be the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.

“I am very poor, the Communists took my land, my car, my money, everything, even the paper, even the picture, they took it all, after 11 year in jail, they release me, I’m broke, only one pants, one shirt,” says Nguyen

He was a pilot in the Vietnam War. He flew American-made jets for the Vietnamese Air Force.

When Saigon fell, he and many other soldiers who fought against the communist regime were jailed, some of which didn’t survive the horrifying ordeal.

Nguyen says, “In the Communist jail, very hard labor.”

The prisoners were forced to build their own jail in the Vietnamese jungle.

A few years after he was finally released, he immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Joplin in 1995, without any relatives and not much more than the shirt on his back.

He got a job at Pillsbury, and many of his co-workers volunteered their time to build his new home.
“Surprise, happy cry everything you know only I thanks God to give me for the rest of my life,” says Nguyen.

Of the seven homes built by the Extreme Home Makeover Team, only one other family still lives in them.