Retired Master Sergeant Tu Lam, keynote speaker at CVMD

Pro Tem Mayor Vong Mouanoutoua (left) and Ret. MSG Tu Lam (right) at the Suicide Prevention Awareness Panel and Keynote Event on Sept. 25th, photo from CVMD Facebook

October 5, 2023 – Retired Master Sergeant Tu Lam, Army Special Operations, OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) & OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) Veteran was the keynote speaker at the Suicide Prevention Awareness Panel and Keynote event, sponsored by Clovis Veterans Memorial District.

The panel speakers included veterans Derric Brown and Pete Daniels. The CVMD event was in collaboration with Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health and VA Central California Health Care System.

Ret. MSG Tu Lam served 22 years in the U.S. Army. He was born in 1974 Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and during the rise of communist rule. 

During this transition into communist rule in Vietnam, Ret. MSG Tu Lam’s family was separated, with some uncles being killed and others being imprisoned in “re-education camps.”

His grandfather used his life savings to smuggle their family out of the country via boat, filled with hundreds of other refugees. Pirates were an issue on this part of the journey. All of the refugees fleeing the country with everything they could—pirates and bandits took advantage of this.

Their boat made it past the pirates, into Indonesia, but were denied entry and left out at sea. They drifted into Russia’s ocean. Eventually, a Russian supply boat found them, and took them to a refugee camp in Indonesia.

His aunt and mother both ended up marrying Green Berets, so he became familiar with Special Forces at a young age. 

He rejected scholarships and instead enlisted into the Infantry at the age of 18. After being trained in long-range reconnaissance, he went to the Marines’ Amphibious School, Ranger School, Army Sniper School, and more. 

What followed were a series of deployments, from Okinawa, the Philippines, and North Africa, to the Middle East for OIF and OEF. There was much more than that. 

After this, he experienced very difficult times. He struggled with depression, and found out he had a TBI. He went on and then off antidepressants, with the withdrawals being especially awful.

At this time, he came across the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, originally written in the 1600’s. Musashi is one of the most revered swordsmen in history, and he was undefeated. Musashi was also a rōnin.

Rōnin is a Japanese word that roughly translates to something along the lines of “wanderer.” It was in reference to a samurai who had no master. Musashi is idolized and deeply respected for his wisdom and philosophy—as illustrated in his Book of Five Rings. 

It might be fair to say that The Book of Five Rings changed Ret. MSG Tu Lam’s life forever. 

Tu Lam is now the CEO of his company, Rōnin Tactics. The name was inspired from what he learned in the Book of Five Rings. Rōnin Tactics is widely requested by law enforcement and other major agencies to come and teach their employees.

In addition to offering training, his company also produces weapons and tactical equipment. 

It is worth noting that Tu Lam has a long history with both spirituality and martial arts, as well as the intersection between the two. 

Ret. MSG and CEO of Rōnin Tactics, Tu Lam, is a profoundly intellectual and unique individual. We are so honored to have had him visit Clovis and speak at the CVMD. 

Retired Master Sergeant Tu Lam’s story is absolutely incredible, and this is just a small, condensed part of it. This article does not do his story justice, it’s merely scratching the surface.

Please refer to The Veterans Project for more on Ret. MSG Tu Lam’s story, as well as many other incredible veteran stories.

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.