|Welcomed gift: Phrynium leaves, which are used to wrap traditional chung cakes, are just some of the gifts that have been sent to soldiers on the Truong Sa Islands. — Photo tienphong.vn
TRUONG SA (VNS) — When Tet (Lunar New Year) rolls around, ships begin to make the trip across the sea, bringing along with them necessities and spring warmth from the mainland to soldiers stationed on the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands.
More than 1,000 tonnes of gifts from Vietnamese induviduals and organisations nationwide were loaded onto four ships at the headquarters of Navy Zone 4 two days before the departure of the ships.
The gifts include groceries like dried vermicelli, bamboo shoots, sticky rice, candies, cookies and especially leaves to wrap traditional banh chung (square glutinous rice cakes).
Soldiers on the 21 islands have also received kumquat trees – gifts from the north of the country – to decorate ancestral altars this Tet holiday.
"It is the first time that fresh flowers and kumquat have been transported to the islands, which will make the soldiers feel as if they are welcoming Tet at home on the mainland," said Nguyen Van Thinh, a senior officer of Navy Zone 4.
"We hope to bring the warmth and affection from the mainland to the islands so that every soldier will have more motivation to fulfill their duties of protecting the national sovereignty whenever spring comes," he added.
Additionally, beef, ostrich meat and more than 2,000 chung cakes from the Youth for the National Islands club were sent to soldiers.
Despite countless difficulties and shortages, the lives of soldiers on the Spratly Islands have gradually been improving.
Soldiers have also made chung cakes from the leaves of almond trees, a typical tree on the islands.
According to Le Duy Hien, a lieutenant stationed on Sinh Ton Island, such activity has become a tradition on the island that dates back to the days when transportation was limited.
He said the cakes wrapped in almond leaves have a greener colour and a lightly bitter taste. "They are very delicious and have the typical taste of the Truong Sa Islands that cannot be found elsewhere," he told the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Soldiers were recently provided with more TV sets that receive satellite waves and a more wide-spread telephone network, so they have been able to access more updated information on the economy, politics, cultural activities and sports in both Viet Nam and abroad.
One of the most serious difficulties that Vietnamese and soldiers residing on the Spratly Islands encounter is the lack of medical facilities.
But the appearance of the ship HQ-561, which is considered a mobile hospital on the sea, has alleviated their worries of seeking medical assistance.
Navy Zone 4 received the ship from the Z189 Shipbuilding Company at the end of 2012.
It is considered a "five-star" medical ship with the capacity to carry 200 people aboard. The ship is equipped with facilities and devices that are just as modern as those in mainland hospitals.
Not only providing medical services, HQ-561 also offers free fresh water and food to fishermen. Therefore, the symbol of the red cross on the ship is considered a life saver to fishermen in difficult situations. — VNS