Originally born in North Vietnam, the son of a Catholic family, Bon Bui and his family fled North Vietnam in 1954 after the communists took power and Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel at the 1954 Geneva Conference. Bui joined the South Vietnamese Army, graduated from the Vietnamese National Military Academy in 1966, and later spent two years in the United States attending Marine Corps military training. He was injured during the Tet Offensive of 1968. After the North's victory in 1975, Bui became a prisoner of war, and was finally released in 1985. He was eventually granted refugee status in 1990 and came to the United States with his family.