Picture an infant boy, fathered by an American soldier. Alone on a busy street in a war-torn city. Kind-hearted orphanage workers see him, then locate his Vietnamese mother who willingly turns him over to the Cam Ranh City Christian Orphanage.
Almost 50 years later we arrive full circle as that same infant boy, now an adult living in Lake Houston, will soon reunite with the three men who played such an integral role in his survival and development.
This is the story of Sam Schrade.
Most folks know Sam as the affable founder and CEO of DNA Studios, a truly unique Humble-located business that provides the equipment that delivers entertainment and sports programming to millions of television and web viewers.
Folks may also know Sam for his work with many area not-for-profit organizations. This year, for example, he’s chair of the Lake Houston Area Chamber.
- Sam Schrade reunites with men who brought him to America -
When they need a community supporter, or emcee, folks know they can count on Sam and DNA Studios.
What folks may not know is the determination, fortitude, grit and luck that it took for this Vietnamese orphan to become a Lake Houston entrepreneur.
Sam, not his name in 1972, was taken to Cam Ranh City Christian Orphanage, established by American soldiers at the nearby military base and supported by several Southern Baptist churches including several in the Houston area.
“I was the youngest orphan in the camp,” recalls Sam.
And while he was too young to recall the tumult of those early years, Sam learned about his harrowing flight to America from a Ben Taub physician, Dan Redmond. Redmond and his team provided medical care when the orphans arrived in America. He also took in the eldest of the orphans, by this time 19. The young man recalled in minute detail their miraculous journey.
“Our director, Ha Xuan Nguyen, realized the North Vietnamese were getting closer to the orphanage. He knew he had to get us out of Vietnam,” Sam says. “The North Vietnamese were firing on us as we left in three decrepit buses, each of us carrying one little bag with all of our belongings.”
Sam is convinced it was one miracle after another that got the 98 orphans, staff and Mr. Ha through the bullets and onto one boat that got them to Saigon and then another wheezy old boat that finally gave out.
“We were drifting aimlessly before a Taiwanese merchant ship came by, refused to help us then, miraculously, returned and towed us to Singapore,” Sam says.
Desperate for his kids to get to America, Mr. Ha wrote a note, gave it to an American soldier, asking him to deliver it to any Baptist missionary he could find.
Another miracle! The Southern Baptist Conference got the note, devised a plan and a plane and flew the orphans first to Switzerland, then New York City and, finally, to Fort Chaffee Arkansas.
“Nine-eight left the orphanage, 98 made it to America, including me,” say Sam.
Sam and the orphans eventually made it to Houston where local Baptist churches moved them to Touch Ranch in Bellville and eventually to the Buckner Baptist Children’s Home in Dallas.
“By this time, Cal Thomas heard about us and came down to do a story,” Sam says. At the time, the syndicated columnist and television news commentator was a reporter for Houston’s Channel 2 news.”
Cal Thomas plays an important part in Sam’s story because Sam’s adoptive mother, Betty Schrade, saw Thomas’ television newscast and pestered her husband, Herb, to begin the adoption process put into place by the Children’s Home.
In order to adopt one of the Cam Ranh orphans, all prospective adoptive parents went through a screening and interviewing process. Betty and Herb Schrade received the recommendation and Sam was the first of the orphans to be adopted. Sam’s Dad passed away in 2016.
Today, besides being an entrepreneur, Sam is married to Casey Schrade, director of member engagement and programs at the Greater Houston Partnership. They are parents of Pierce, 20, Mason 18, and Emma 6.
Public relations comes naturally to the affable Sam. He graduated from Texas Tech with a PR and marketing degree. He built a website for the Lubbock newspaper, then the television station, worked in sports information, then started his own company building websites before he saw a need for video and created DNA Studios.
Life for Sam has come full circle.
He keeps in touch with his fellow “former orphans” mainly through a Facebook page, Cam Ranh Orphans. They hold a reunion every five years, and they’ve all “paid it forward” by establishing and supporting three orphanages in Cam Ranh City, a complex that includes orphanage, school and church.
Sam is bringing Cal Thomas in to speak to the Lake Houston Chamber as part of their Focus on the Federal Government Luncheon on August 27. Following that luncheon, Sam and Thomas will reunite with Ralph Neighbors, the Baptist minister who made all the arraignments to get the orphans to America, and Dr. Dan Redmond, the Ben Taub Emergency Room physician, who cared for the orphans.
They’ll reminisce about that crucial year in 1975 when 98 souls made a harrowing journey from war-torn Vietnam to Texas.
Sam Schrade is living proof of the American Dream.
For more information about Sam Schrade and DNA Studios, DNAwebs.com.