Life Life

16/08/2018 - 15:44

Loyal Love

40 years ago, a young man from Thua Thien Hue volunteered for the international duty in Cambodia and sacrificed his life in that country. In the homeland, the village girl anxiously awaited her lover, and she decided to keep her virginity.

Mr. Nguyen Thien burnt incense on Mr. Hat’s censer of worship from afar between his father’s and mother’s censers

The veterans’ efforts

On the afternoon of mid-January 1979, a plum-colored automobile carried a young Vietnamese soldier with serious injury to the emergency room at Hospital E209 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Mr. Nguyen Dinh Thanh (currently living in Han Mac Tu Street, Vy Da Ward, Hue City), who was then a soldier of Company 5, the 7th Battalion, 209th Regiment, 7th Division, 4th Corps, was also underwent medical treatment at Hospital E209

Seeing the injured soldier, Thanh helped to take the patient on a stretcher to the emergency room. Mr. Thanh was shocked to discover that the injured  was his former school friend Nguyen Trong Hat (born in 1957), a native of group 10, Thuy Phuong Ward, Huong Thuy Town, Thua Thien Hue Province.

After completing his international duty, and returning to the Fatherland, Mr. Thanh visited Mr. Hat's house and received only tears from the old father, who did not hear from the son. Mr. Hat's father passed away with his recollections of his son. Recalling in tears, Thanh said that he has for years been anxious about a volunteer soldier whose condition has not been clarified. Mr. Thanh retold the story to Mr. Khổng Quốc Toản, a veteran who lives in Han Mac Tu Street, Vy Da Ward, Hue City. Together Mr. Toan and Thanh looked for a needle in a haystack.

The rare letter and autograph about the lover Mrs. Lac has kept for 40 years

After about one year of a lot of effort, the representatives of Mr. Hat's family and friends also received feedback from the 209 th Regiment, 7 th Division, 4th Corps, and Hat’s former unit. Mr. Hat was confirmed to join the army in April 1978 and listed among the revolutionary martyrs of 209 th Regiment and of Policy Board of 7 th Division.


Mr. Hat's house is now inhabited by the Thiens. Mr. Thien said that the Hats had three sisters: the first was his eldest sister, the second Mr. Hat, and he the youngest. His mother died prematurely; his father was Nguyen Van Co, who brought up three sisters alone. His son, who did the international duty, has not returned. Old Co had many times asked the local authorities about the information on his son; however, no one knew. He missed his son  a lot  to the point of becoming distraught, then fell ill and passed away.

Mr. Thien also continued to enquire about his elder brother for years, but all his efforts were in vain. With the restrained pain, he put one more censer (to worship Mr. Hat from afar) between his father’s and mother’s censers. Because of poverty, he only makes a vegetarian meal for all three people’s death anniversary on the full moon day of the lunar seventh month every year.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Lac decides to “keep her virginity” and considers the care for the family and grandchildren as a joy of life each day

According to Mr. Thien’s memory and story of the woman Mr. Hat "sculptured", I went to find that special person. She is Nguyen Thi Lac aged 63, a petty trader in group 9, Thuy Phuong Ward, Huong Thuy District. It was so long before the woman turned the pages of memories of a buried love. With my persistent persuasion, Ms. Lac went inside the room of the modest little house, searching and taking out the two envelopes and a letter turning dark yellow with the passage of time.

Before entering the battlefield, Hat wrote Mrs. Lac two letters; one was sent from Ben Hai District, Quang Tri Province and one from Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City. Ms. Lac opened the second letter and also the last letter he sent to her. The innocent love between the student and the female guerrilla in bygone years was hidden behind each naïve letter.

In a letter dated 29 August 1978 written in Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City (post box 4K 2115) at the end of the letter, Mr. Hat wished Ms. Lac to send a photograph for him to bring on the battlefield. "Asking for each other’s photograph is an emotional expression. Unfortunately, I was not in time to take a photograph of myself, Hat had entered the battlefield,” Ms. Lac told with sadness.

It was so long before the woman turned the pages of memories of the love which even Tan, her adopted grandson for over 20 years, has not known. Not only Tan but also Tan's wife are loved and cared for by Ms. Lac. Those are the warmest and happiest things for the woman “keeping her virginity” for the loyal love over the past 40 years.

The figure flickering on the flying flag

Mr. Thien is now a saw miller. On important holidays, he often looks up the Fatherland’s flag to recollect his elder brother. That habit is due to the fact that upon joining the army, Mr. Hat sent the letters to the family, saying that if he could not return in the future and sacrificed his life for the Fatherland, then everyone looked up the Fatherland’s flag, and then they would see him.

Over the years, Mr. Thien did not know that the woman he considered to be the “sister-in-law manqué" still looked up the Fatherland’s flag to commemorate a young man, a broken love. In the letter to Ms. Lac, Mr. Hat also had bad presages, “Every hour, every minute I wonder whether I can come back to the family and friends, and meet my old friend Lac again.  If I enter the battlefield and sacrifice for the Fatherland, then Lac, look up the flying red flag with yellow stars! Hat will be seen on it.”

The woman with the gentle and graceful face folded the letter; carefully put it into the dark-yellow envelope with visible postmark even after 40 years. A page of romantic and melancholy memories has just been folded.

Story and photos: Mai Dinh Toan