Toro Vaun was born in 1977 in Cambodia during the height of power of the Khmer Rouge, headed by the communist dictator Pol Pot, which murdered nearly 2 million Cambodians during its five-year reign. Vaun spent most of his young life fleeing into the night with his family until finding relative safety in a refugee camp in Thailand. Finally, in 1992, Vaun and his family found passage to the U.S. and he never looked back. Vaun prospered over the years eventually settling down in the small West Texas town of Ballinger. But in the summer of 2011, after hearing of the death of his father, Vaun decided it was time to return to his homeland to discover what he had escaped, the unknowns he had left behind, the hidden strengths of his father and the resiliency of his homeland.   Caption:  After shaving his head in a ceremony to honor his parents, Toro Saniya Vaun prays in front of a shrine at Wat Preah Ang Thom in Cambodia. Vaun returned to his native country for the first time in almost 20 years to attend a funeral service for his father.

Toro Vaun was born in 1977 in Cambodia during the height of power of the Khmer Rouge, headed by the communist dictator Pol Pot, which murdered nearly 2 million Cambodians during its five-year reign. Vaun spent most of his young life fleeing into the night with his family until finding relative safety in a refugee camp in Thailand. Finally, in 1992, Vaun and his family found passage to the U.S. and he never looked back. Vaun prospered over the years eventually settling down in the small West Texas town of Ballinger. But in the summer of 2011, after hearing of the death of his father, Vaun decided it was time to return to his homeland to discover what he had escaped, the unknowns he had left behind, the hidden strengths of his father and the resiliency of his homeland.

Caption: After shaving his head in a ceremony to honor his parents, Toro Saniya Vaun prays in front of a shrine at Wat Preah Ang Thom in Cambodia. Vaun returned to his native country for the first time in almost 20 years to attend a funeral service for his father.

 In an effort to learn more about his culture, Toro Saniya Vaun visits Cambodia's ancient temple Angkor Wat. Vaun has returned to his native country for the first time since immigrating to America in 1992.

In an effort to learn more about his culture, Toro Saniya Vaun visits Cambodia's ancient temple Angkor Wat. Vaun has returned to his native country for the first time since immigrating to America in 1992.

 At the end of a long night of conversation at his mother's house in Sisophn, Toro Vaun shows members of his family photographs of San Angelo, where Vaun currently resides, and the surrounding area of Texas.

At the end of a long night of conversation at his mother's house in Sisophn, Toro Vaun shows members of his family photographs of San Angelo, where Vaun currently resides, and the surrounding area of Texas.

 Toro Saniya Vaun shares a laugh with his niece Sinat Vaun during a break in his father's funeral in Sisophon, Cambodia. This was the first time Vaun has been back in his birth country since immigrating to America in 1992.

Toro Saniya Vaun shares a laugh with his niece Sinat Vaun during a break in his father's funeral in Sisophon, Cambodia. This was the first time Vaun has been back in his birth country since immigrating to America in 1992.

 Toro Saniya Vaun leaps into the flowing waters of a river near his mother's home in Sisophon, Cambodia during a swimming excursion with family members. Vaun, born in 1977 in Cambodia at the height of the genocidal Khmer Rouge reign, went back to his native land for the first time in almost 20 years to attend his father's funeral.

Toro Saniya Vaun leaps into the flowing waters of a river near his mother's home in Sisophon, Cambodia during a swimming excursion with family members. Vaun, born in 1977 in Cambodia at the height of the genocidal Khmer Rouge reign, went back to his native land for the first time in almost 20 years to attend his father's funeral.

 Toro Saniya Vaun stands in front of one of the bas-reliefs that stretches all the way around the central temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Vaun, a native of Cambodia, traveled back to his birth country to say good bye to his father at his funeral, but regain some of his identity as a Cambodian. This is the first time Vaun has returned to Cambodia since immigrating to the United States in 1992.

Toro Saniya Vaun stands in front of one of the bas-reliefs that stretches all the way around the central temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Vaun, a native of Cambodia, traveled back to his birth country to say good bye to his father at his funeral, but regain some of his identity as a Cambodian. This is the first time Vaun has returned to Cambodia since immigrating to the United States in 1992.

 Having only been in the country for just two days, Toro Vaun gets a little rest with family members at his mother's house in Sisophon, Cambodia.

Having only been in the country for just two days, Toro Vaun gets a little rest with family members at his mother's house in Sisophon, Cambodia.

 On a recent trip, Toro Saniya Vaun walks down the main dirt road that runs through his birth village of Banteay Toup, Cambodia. Vaun has not seen his birth village since 1983 while fleeing clashes between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese.

On a recent trip, Toro Saniya Vaun walks down the main dirt road that runs through his birth village of Banteay Toup, Cambodia. Vaun has not seen his birth village since 1983 while fleeing clashes between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese.

 Within a few minutes of arriving at his birth village of Banteay Toup, Cambodia, Toro Vaun is greeted by an elderly man who recognized him from his childhood. The last time Vaun was in his village was in 1983 when his family was fleeing the area as fighting raged between Khmer Rouge loyalists, communist Vietnamese and Cambodia freedom fighters.

Within a few minutes of arriving at his birth village of Banteay Toup, Cambodia, Toro Vaun is greeted by an elderly man who recognized him from his childhood. The last time Vaun was in his village was in 1983 when his family was fleeing the area as fighting raged between Khmer Rouge loyalists, communist Vietnamese and Cambodia freedom fighters.

 If it is not being used for farming, most of the Cambodian countryside is dense jungle.

If it is not being used for farming, most of the Cambodian countryside is dense jungle.

 Toro Vaun samples a few roasted crickets at a roadside food stand near Sisophon, Cambodia.

Toro Vaun samples a few roasted crickets at a roadside food stand near Sisophon, Cambodia.

 Toro Vaun picks blossoms that will be used in a soup for dinner near a local swimming hole near his mother's house in Sisophon, Cambodia.

Toro Vaun picks blossoms that will be used in a soup for dinner near a local swimming hole near his mother's house in Sisophon, Cambodia.

 Toro Vaun walks over a stone bridge that crosses a moat that surrounds Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Toro Vaun walks over a stone bridge that crosses a moat that surrounds Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

 As a way to reconnect with his past, Toro Saniya Vaun visits the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh. The museum was once a high school before it was converted into a torture prison by the Khmer Rouge where more than 17,000 people were killed in the late 1970s. Vaun, born in 1977, lived most of his young life in refugee camps trying to escape the fighting.

As a way to reconnect with his past, Toro Saniya Vaun visits the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh. The museum was once a high school before it was converted into a torture prison by the Khmer Rouge where more than 17,000 people were killed in the late 1970s. Vaun, born in 1977, lived most of his young life in refugee camps trying to escape the fighting.

 Toro Saniya Vaun takes a moment to himself as he tours the brick-lined cells at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The museum was the site of Security Prison 21, run by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. This was the first time Vaun, who spent most of his young life as a refugee, has seen the evidence in person of the violence his country endured under the Khmer Rouge dictatorship.

Toro Saniya Vaun takes a moment to himself as he tours the brick-lined cells at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The museum was the site of Security Prison 21, run by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. This was the first time Vaun, who spent most of his young life as a refugee, has seen the evidence in person of the violence his country endured under the Khmer Rouge dictatorship.

 Toro Saniya Vaun observes large water cisterns used during torture sessions at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during a recent trip back to his native country. The museum was once known as Security Prison 21 run by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. More than 17,000 people were tortured and killed at the prison.

Toro Saniya Vaun observes large water cisterns used during torture sessions at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during a recent trip back to his native country. The museum was once known as Security Prison 21 run by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. More than 17,000 people were tortured and killed at the prison.

 Toro Saniya Vaun talks with Chum Mey, one of the last remaining survivors of Security Prison 21, a notorious detention center run by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s where more than 17,000 people were tortured and killed.

Toro Saniya Vaun talks with Chum Mey, one of the last remaining survivors of Security Prison 21, a notorious detention center run by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s where more than 17,000 people were tortured and killed.

 Toro Saniya Vaun (right) sits with his mother, Lor Meas, as they observe the urn containing the ashes of Sanet Vaun, Vaun's father, at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun's father died in late June 2011 after a month of declining health. This was the first time Vaun had been back to his native country after immigrating to America almost 20 years ago.

Toro Saniya Vaun (right) sits with his mother, Lor Meas, as they observe the urn containing the ashes of Sanet Vaun, Vaun's father, at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun's father died in late June 2011 after a month of declining health. This was the first time Vaun had been back to his native country after immigrating to America almost 20 years ago.

 Toro Saniya Vaun, along with his mother Lor and brother Tin, participate in a funeral ceremony for his father, Sanet, at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun returned to his native country for the first time since immigrating to America in 1992.

Toro Saniya Vaun, along with his mother Lor and brother Tin, participate in a funeral ceremony for his father, Sanet, at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun returned to his native country for the first time since immigrating to America in 1992.

 Toro Saniya Vaun offers a gift to one of the nine Buddhist monks who prosided over his father's funeral at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun was unable to attend the first funeral for his father who died in late June 2011, but was able to attend the second service, a Cambodian tradition, held 100 days after.

Toro Saniya Vaun offers a gift to one of the nine Buddhist monks who prosided over his father's funeral at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun was unable to attend the first funeral for his father who died in late June 2011, but was able to attend the second service, a Cambodian tradition, held 100 days after.

 Mourners gather at the Vaun Family home in Sisophon, Cambodia for the funeral of Sanet Vaun, father of San Angelo business owner Toro Vaun.

Mourners gather at the Vaun Family home in Sisophon, Cambodia for the funeral of Sanet Vaun, father of San Angelo business owner Toro Vaun.

 Toro Saniya Vaun and family and friends gather around a burning paper model of a house on the second day of Vaun's father's funeral at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. The model house was built to represent the accommodations Vaun's father will have in the next life.

Toro Saniya Vaun and family and friends gather around a burning paper model of a house on the second day of Vaun's father's funeral at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. The model house was built to represent the accommodations Vaun's father will have in the next life.

 The Buddhist monks presiding over the funeral of Sanet Vaun begin their chants at the Vaun family home in Sisophon, Cambodia.

The Buddhist monks presiding over the funeral of Sanet Vaun begin their chants at the Vaun family home in Sisophon, Cambodia.

 Toro Vaun gives a deep bow of respect to family members on his father's side who he has never met. Vaun traveled back to his native Cambodia to attend his father's funeral in Sisophon.

Toro Vaun gives a deep bow of respect to family members on his father's side who he has never met. Vaun traveled back to his native Cambodia to attend his father's funeral in Sisophon.

 Led by Lor Meas, funeral goers place rice in the bowls for the monks that presided over the funeral of Sanet Vaun, Meas' husband. San Angelo business owner, Toro Vaun, traveled back to his native Cambodia to attend his father's funeral.

Led by Lor Meas, funeral goers place rice in the bowls for the monks that presided over the funeral of Sanet Vaun, Meas' husband. San Angelo business owner, Toro Vaun, traveled back to his native Cambodia to attend his father's funeral.

 Toro Vaun shares lunch with family and community members who came to his father's funeral at the the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. The funeral lasted for two days.

Toro Vaun shares lunch with family and community members who came to his father's funeral at the the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. The funeral lasted for two days.

 Toro Vaun hugs his mother, Lor Meas, at the funeral for his father in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun has not been back to Cambodia since immigrating to America in 1992.

Toro Vaun hugs his mother, Lor Meas, at the funeral for his father in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun has not been back to Cambodia since immigrating to America in 1992.

 Toro Vaun traveled back to his home country of Cambodia to attend the funeral for his father. Vaun has not been back to Cambodia since immigrating to America in 1992.

Toro Vaun traveled back to his home country of Cambodia to attend the funeral for his father. Vaun has not been back to Cambodia since immigrating to America in 1992.

 San Angelo businessman Toro Vaun shows photographs of his home in Texas to young family members during a break in his father's funeral at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun has not been back to his native country since immigrating to America in 1992.

San Angelo businessman Toro Vaun shows photographs of his home in Texas to young family members during a break in his father's funeral at the family home in Sisophon, Cambodia. Vaun has not been back to his native country since immigrating to America in 1992.

 An emotional Toro Saniya Vaun kneels before his mother, Lor Meas, and asks for her blessings as he prepares to shave his head at Phnom Kulen in Cambodia. It is considered a great sacrifice to shave one's head in Cambodian tradition. Vaun shaved his head to honor his mother and father.

An emotional Toro Saniya Vaun kneels before his mother, Lor Meas, and asks for her blessings as he prepares to shave his head at Phnom Kulen in Cambodia. It is considered a great sacrifice to shave one's head in Cambodian tradition. Vaun shaved his head to honor his mother and father.

 Toro Saniya Vaun kneels as the high priest of Wat Preah Ang Thom, a small temple at the top of Phnom Kulen in Cambodia, shaves his head in a ceremony Vaun decided to do to honor his parents. Vaun traveled back to his native Cambodia for the first time in almost 20 years to attend his father's funeral.

Toro Saniya Vaun kneels as the high priest of Wat Preah Ang Thom, a small temple at the top of Phnom Kulen in Cambodia, shaves his head in a ceremony Vaun decided to do to honor his parents. Vaun traveled back to his native Cambodia for the first time in almost 20 years to attend his father's funeral.

 Toro Saniya Vaun climbs the stairs to the top of Wat Preah Ang Thom in Cambodia as his mother, Lor Meas, follows behind. Vaun had just concluded a ceremony in which he shaved his head to honor his parents.

Toro Saniya Vaun climbs the stairs to the top of Wat Preah Ang Thom in Cambodia as his mother, Lor Meas, follows behind. Vaun had just concluded a ceremony in which he shaved his head to honor his parents.

 Toro Saniya Vuan places his hands on a reclining Buddha statue almost 20 feet in length as he prays at Wat Preah Ang Thom, a small temple atop Phnom Kulen in Cambodia. Vaun traveled to the mountain, considered to be the most sacred in Cambodia, to participate in a ceremony in which he would shave his head. Vaun, a native Cambodia who has not set foot in his birth country in almost 20 years, decided to shave his head in honor of his parents and the risks they took to keep their family safe during the country's time of war.

Toro Saniya Vuan places his hands on a reclining Buddha statue almost 20 feet in length as he prays at Wat Preah Ang Thom, a small temple atop Phnom Kulen in Cambodia. Vaun traveled to the mountain, considered to be the most sacred in Cambodia, to participate in a ceremony in which he would shave his head. Vaun, a native Cambodia who has not set foot in his birth country in almost 20 years, decided to shave his head in honor of his parents and the risks they took to keep their family safe during the country's time of war.

 Toro Vaun stands at the base of a waterfall on Phnom Kulen in Cambodia after participating in a ceremony where he had his head shaved in honor of his parents. This trip to his birth country marks the first time he has returned since immigrating to America in 1992.

Toro Vaun stands at the base of a waterfall on Phnom Kulen in Cambodia after participating in a ceremony where he had his head shaved in honor of his parents. This trip to his birth country marks the first time he has returned since immigrating to America in 1992.