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A veteran’s search for fallen comrades

Update: July, 21/2017 - 09:00
War veteran Đào Thiện Sính has sent some 40,000 letters to families of martyrs, informing them of their kin’s grave locations. — VNS/VNS Photo Phan Sáu
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The family of martyr Lương Khanh in Nha Trang City couldn’t hold back the tears when they received a letter from a stranger informing them of the location of Khanh’s grave.

The martyr had been dead for years but the family couldn’t afford to search for his body.

The informant was veteran Đào Thiện Sính in Vĩnh Khánh District of the south central coastal province of Khánh Hòa.

Since 1976 Sính has sent about 40,000 letters to martyrs’ families and relatives, supplying them with information he learned from trips to cemeteries nationwide.

“Since we heard about my elder brother’s death, every day my mother longed for a letter which might inform us of the place he was buried,” Sính recalled.

Understanding the mother’s pain and martyrs families’ thirst for news, Sính decided to start travelling to cemeteries.

At 20, Sính fought in the Quảng Trị battle field until Liberation Day on April 30, 1975. Four years later, he re-enlisted to fight in Cambodia. Returning from both battlefields, he began a normal job.

Using his free time, first he travelled to cemeteries close to Khánh Hòa Province to search for his brother’s grave where he also found many unmarked graves. Then he started collecting information engraved on the graves and began writing letters to martyrs’ families.

“My father-in-law is lying down here. It’s such a feeling of warmth knowing my father-in-law can finally rest in peace,” said Trần Huyền Trân, the daughter-in-law of martyr Lương Khanh, as she visited Khanh’s grave.

“He died when my husband was only three. Years later, my mother-in-law lost hope in finding his grave due to the family’s economic hardships," said Trân, a resident of Nha Trang City.

“I and my husband burst into tears upon receiving Sính’s letter informing us that our father was buried in a cemetery in Tây Ninh Province and then Sính and my father-in-law’s comrades helped bring him home,” Trâm added, saying that the father enlisted in 1976 and died two years later in Cambodia.

“It was sad that my mother-in-law was not alive to witness this miracle.”

Over the past decades, Sính has gone far and wide to more than 200 martyrs’ cemeteries including those for unknown soldiers from the central province of Quảng Trị to provinces in the southeastern region.

Visiting any cemetery, Sính noted down every name, age, birthplace and any information available on martyrs, searched for more information and decoded them before writing letters to the martyrs’ families.

The trips took place day or night; sometimes he even slept in cemeteries.

“I do this out of love for my fallen comrades. I always feel something ‘pushing’ in my mind and my heart,” the veteran said.

Sính has also helped carry the martyrs’ remains home.

“It is an indescribable joy to bring them home, seeing them rest in peace. I’m determined to do this job as long as my health allows,” said Sính.

Sính’s mission hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has received support from local post offices with more than 10,000 commune-based post offices delivering the letters to martyrs’ families for free. Many other veterans have also helped him with funds to buy envelopes and papers.

“My whole family is grateful for Sính as he let us know the location of my elder brother’s grave, martyr Bùi Văn Phước who died in Cambodia aged 22,” said Bùi Văn Được, at his brother’s grave in Khánh Hòa Province’s Ninh Hòa Township.

Deputy head of Khánh Hòa Province’s War Veterans’ Association, Ngô Mậu Chiến, said “Sính is a person dedicated to work related to veterans, especially writing letters about martyrs’ graves.”

Due to his efforts, Sính has been granted numerous certificates of merit by the Việt Nam War Veterans’ Association and Khánh Hòa Province’s War Veterans’ Association.

Living relatives of the martyrs call Sính “a perfect connector”.

And Sính will continue his journey as he is uncomfortable with so many Vietnamese martyrs’ resting place still unknown to their families. — VNS

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