|Man of action and letters: Dang Sy Ngoc holds up a copy of his war diary Troi Xanh Khong Bien Gioi (Endless Blue Sky). — File Photos
Dang Si Ngoc was seriously injured six times during the American War. After Viet Nam's liberation, he wrote the well-read war diary Troi Xanh Khong Bien Gioi (Endless Blue Sky). He now works as a motorbike taxi driver to make ends meet. Tien Dung
Even the serious wounds from the war could not keep the war veteran Dang Si Ngoc, of central Ha Tinh Province from trying to succeed. A wartime hero, Ngoc continues to live his life with valour in peacetime.
Born in wartime to a poor family in central Ha Tinh Province, Dang Si Ngoc only started school at the age of 10, but proved to excel in mathematics and literature.
Answering the patriotic call to duty, he put down his books and volunteered to join the army. Not only did he sacrifice his studies, but also his concerns over the financial well-being of his family.
As a 19-year-old soldier, he and his comrades were sent to fight in the battlefields of Quang Tri.
Ngoc was wounded six times during his three years of service in the bloodiest battlefields of the American War.
The last time was on July 20, 1972, when he took such severe injuries to his thigh and stomach from a bomb blast that he had to be transferred to the North for medical treatment.
"There was one point when I really wanted to kill myself," he shared. "The doctors told me that my health had been decreased a lot, and I didn't want to put an extra burden on others."
This, however, was just a temporary moment of weakness. The image of the character Pavel Korchagin from the Russian novel Thep Da Toi The Day (How The Steel Was Tempered), inspired him.
|Driving away poverty: War veteran Dang Si Ngoc from central Ha Tinh Province, now ekes out a living as a motorbike taxi driver.
Smiling, he said, "Later I was ashamed of ever having such a silly idea.
"While going through rehabilitation I started to spend my free time reading, as well as writing poetry and memoirs."
He was eventually given treatment at a medical facility for Military Region 4, where he ended up meeting his wife.
By chance, a nurse, named Tran Thi Van, who worked at the Viet Nam-Poland Friendship Hospital came to visit some of her friends, and the two became acquainted.
Ngoc started to come to the hospital more often to visit the wounded soldier under the pretext of interest in his poems and memoirs, and eventually their relationship grew.
"I loved Van from the first time I set eyes on her. But I was shocked to know that she wanted to marry, I just couldn't..."
However, her persistent love persuaded him. They got married one year later, in a simple ceremony, despite disparaging words from many people.
They have now had three children. "We really had to struggle to bring them up," he shared. However their perseverance paid off. All three have graduated from university and have promising careers.
But life has not exactly become easy for Ngoc, who is now more than 60. He ekes out a living as a motorbike taxi driver, and even on rainy days, waits patiently for his next passenger.
Once he was released from medical treatment, Ngoc became something of a neighbourhood elder, being assigned as head of the residential area, head of the Veterans Society and of the local ‘war invalids group'.
"After returning home I've found it difficult to find work. I really do not like sitting around doing nothing. So I finally chose to become a motorbike driver to earn money and also as a way to stay active and maintain social relationships. I consider myself extremely lucky compared to my comrades who never came back from the war."
Now he tries to save VND5,000 (US$0.24) to VND20,000 ($0.95) a day to travel to the old battlefields in search of his fallen comrades. Any extra money he can save he spends on buying clothes, books and food for people who are in need.
Besides working as a driver, Ngoc is also a respected writer. He is the author of a book entitled Troi Xanh Khong Bien Gioi (Endless Blue Sky), a war diary.
"All my efforts don't amount to much," Ngoc said, "but I believe that one should try his best to achieve what he can either in wartime or during peace." — VNS