Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — War injuries haven’t kept veteran Trần Quang Liệu from his dream to become a maths teacher.
Liệu, born in 1954 in the northern province of Thái Bình, joined the army when he was 17 years old, just finishing high school and dreaming of a teaching career.
But like many young people who grew up during war in Việt Nam, Liệu joined the army without any hesitance to protect his country.
He said he has never forgotten the enthusiasm, eagerness and determination than emerged inside him as a young soldier.
“At the age of 17, many of us had just said goodbye to pens and textbook to take guns instead,” Liệu recalled, adding that long rough journeys to the battlefield taught them vivid lessons about the hurtful war.
During a fight in Phù Mỹ District, the central province of Bình Định in 1972, a piece of shrapnel damaged half of his face.
“As soon as I awoke after the injury, I found that I had lost cheekbones and one eye. It hurt but I soon recognised that I was so lucky,” he said.
“I’m alive while many of my comrades died in that fight,” Liệu said.
Returning home from battle with a deformed face and only one eye, Liệu taught himself, taking the university entrance exam and passing while still undergoing treatment on his face.
Veteran Trần Quang Liệu shows his writings from the battlefield. — VNA/VNS Photo Lê Vân
Professor surgeon Nguyễn Huy Phan of 108 Military Hospital, who is known as a founder for Việt Nam’s plastic surgery and micro surgery, provided Liệu medical treatment and operated on his face.
Liệu said he was eternally grateful to Phan.
“Phan gave me not only medical treatment but also advice that inspired me to continue realising my dream,” Liệu said.
Between 1972 and 1975, Liệu said he travelled a lot from his hometown to hospital for surgeries. Between surgeries, Liệu studied hard for his exam.
“I passed the exam with high scores which were good enough for me to be a candidate for overseas study,” he said.
“But a Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs official told me that I was refused because of my deformed face,” he added.
After spending five years studying in a local university, Liệu started teaching maths in Hải Dương Technical and Economic Vocational School and the secondary school under garment company May 10 and Thượng Thanh Secondary School in Hà Nội’s Long Biên District.
Before and after Liệu’s retirement in 2009, his house has been filled with questions and answers as students in his neighbourhood arrive to ask for help with their maths problems.
“I had the chance to live. I must make my life meaningful,” Liệu said, emphasising that teaching students made him happy.
Liệu’s wife, Nguyễn Thị Liễu who used to work in military logistics, said her husband liked teaching and helping people.
The parents of his students sometimes gave the family vegetables and fruits to thank their kids’ teacher, she said.
Liệu said that teaching was not only a way that helps him to earn his living but also to celebrate life.
“I’m happy to see generations of students grow and mature. I’m so pleased when they greet me when they see me on the streets,” he said. — VNS