PANO – Someone has once advised me to let bygones be bygones and that whatever they were, sadness or even happiness, I should look toward the future. It is natural rule of life.
Part 1: A teacher is deeply attached to martyrs
Anyway, I had met a person who searched from the past and from his memories, and then return to the old battlefields and places where his comrades had sacrificed in order to realize his wish to repatriate his comrades’ remains to their relatives. He is war veteran Tran Ngoc Doanh (former soldier of Company 3, Naval Sapper Battalion 471, under Military Zone 5) now lives in No.39, Nguyen Phuoc Chu Street, Hiep Hoa Bac Precinct, Lien Chieu District, Da Nang City.
Promises to comrades
The small house of Tran Ngoc Doanh has long become a reliable address for many people, especially relatives of martyrs of Battalion 471, who came to seek detailed information so that they could find and collect remains of their beloved ones.
Tran Ngoc Doanh, born in 1950 in Dong Son District, Thanh Hoa Province, joined the army in 1968. In 1971, he was appointed to Company 3, Battalion 471, under Military Zone 5. During 13 years serving in the army, he had witnessed the sacrifices of so many comrades in fierce battles against the enemies. Sometimes he himself had to bury his comrades and took notes of burial places in order to find and bring them to their home towns after the national reunification. Of whom, there were 71 martyrs in Battalion 471. According to Tran Ngoc Doanh, most of commandos had fought and sacrificed themselves silently. During the wartime, he and his comrades had promised among themselves that whoever could be alive after the war until the national reunification should bring the fallen ones’ sets of remains to their relatives even though the remains would only remain a piece of bone or a handful of soil.
In 1981, Doanh was demobilized and worked for the railway sector. When his family’s life was relatively stable in 1990, he and his comrades started finding, collecting and repatriating his comarades-in-arms’ sets of remains to their kindred to fulfill their previous promise.
Hence, from this time, with a handbook noting the martyrs’ native villages, he sends letters about martyrs to their families. Besides, he had joined martyrs’ families in the search to collect their sets of remains with bicycle.
Tears in “get-together” days
Up to now, veteran Tran Ngoc Doanh cannot remember how many roads he had passed by, how much information about martyrs he referred to or how many letters he sent to martyrs’ families. Each time he found a martyr, he could not check tears to see their families’ happiness.
One of the most unforgetable events is the search for remains of martyr Trinh Quang Vinh who had served in Company 2.
Doanh recalled on April 23rd, 1971, he and his comrades were assigned to raid Thuy Tu Bridge in Da Nang. While Vinh was crossing the river with an explosive charge, he was subjected to enemies fires and died instantly. Local residents laid him to rest at Con Rau (Beard Hillock)”. However, only a few people knew that Vinh was married with Nguyen Thi Sinh- a girl of the same native land in Hai Bac Commune, Hai Hau District, Nam Dinh Province. They were lovers in three days and were a spousal couple within only 1 day before Vinh entered the Southern front-line to fight against enemies. On the day of departure, Vinh promised Ms. Sinh to come back after defeating the American invaders. Unexpectedly, she had to hold back her tears while taking her husband’s death notice and could never enjoy the reunion after the national reunification. Despite this fact, Sinh still believed her husband might be still alive and decided to stay single to wait for him.
Her belief stayed unchanged even when she got a letter from veteran Tran Ngoc Doanh about Vinh’ grave. During the travel to Da Nang to receive her husband’s remains, she did not cry either as she still believed that her husband could return home with her.
Only when Doanh and other veterans conducted the exhumation and she saw Vinh’s remains by her own eyes, Sinh broke into tears and loudly shouted “Now I could bid my last farewell to you. Because I always keep your previous promise before you set off for frontlines. From the bottom of my heart, I do not think soldiers who left for battles never get back to their families.Whatever you are now, you are in my heart forever”.
No one at the event could check tears to see Sinh’s tears after awaiting her husband for ten years. They wept for their comrade and his loyal wife. Being soldiers’ wives, these women had to undergo numerous difficulties in lives but always are faithful to their husbands to help soldiers keep their mind at ease on frontlines against enemies.
According to Doanh, most of his fallen comrades were buried in deep forests, so searchers had to surmout great difficulties to reach old battlefields to find and collect martyrs’ remains. “Many times, I had to walk the whole day, crossing several streams and stiff mountains with dried food, noodles and dry provisions. At times we were very thirsty but when we found a nearly dry stream, we had to dig a pit and wait for hours together to get water for drinking and cooking,” Doanh said.
During these hard journeys to find martyrs, Doanh and his delegation’s members always received meaningful helps from local people and even passers-by.
It is a case of collecting martyr Nguyen Van Luc (Ha Bang Commune, Thach That District, Hanoi) who sacrificed on a reconnaissance mission. In 2001, his wife, Nguyen Thi Nam, and daughter decided to collect and bring Luc’s remains home. However, they only afford to pay for a coach to do their plan.
Unfortunately, they could not foretell everything. “After collecting Luc’s remains and Nam put it into her handbag, I took them to a station to catch a coach to return home. But after moving away about 30m, the coach stopped and Nam’s bag was thrown out on the road. Immediately, I run and took the bag in my arms. Nam was crying while getting off. It turned out that the assistant driver did not want her to take a set of remains of martyr on the coach. I consoled Nam and her daughter and recommended them to wait another coach," Doanh said.
But there are many good people. “After putting the bag to the ground and moving a few meters, the coach suddenly turned around. Seen from the coach, a 40-year-old woman, might be coach’s owner, said sorry for her employee’s impolite action. Then she asked to drive Nam and her daughter to Hanoi,” Doanh added.
The coach owner encouraged veteran Tran Ngoc Doanh to continue implementing his promise to bring his martyrs’ remains to their homes. “The only thing I want is that I am in good health to achieve my goal because many of my comrades are still staying in deep forests,” Doanh hoped.
Reported by Duy Thanh
Translated by Van Hieu