Tài and another guard patrol the Việt Nam – China border in Bình Liêu District, Quảng Ninh Province. — Photo thanhnien.vn
QUẢNG NINH — On opposite sides of the country, brothers Danh Hải and Danh Thành Tài have been defending Việt Nam’s borders to push back COVID-19.
In early March, Staff Sergeant Danh Thanh Tài, a final-year student at the Border Defence Force Academy, and 59 comrades were sent to support Quảng Ninh Province's Border Guard Command to prevent the pandemic from spreading.
Arriving in Quảng Ninh Province, Tài was sent to Hoành Mô Border Guard Station in the village of Cẩm Hắc, Bình Liêu District.
Checkpoint 1322 where Tài was stationed is actually a tent set up beside a metal fence on the border with Việt Nam and China in a dense forest some distance from the nearest residential area.
During his first days at the station, Tài spent most of his time learning about the local culture and living conditions.
On sunny days, when smugglers are trying to cross the border, they have to be on guard round-the-clock.
“The biggest challenge is communicating with people from the Dao and Tày ethnic groups as well as learning about their cultures,” Tài told Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper.
“We are always eager to learn from more experienced officers,” he added.
In mid-April, it was still cold in Bình Liêu District, something Tài, who was born and raised in the Mekong Delta, was not used to.
On crisp nights, Tài and his friend – Võ Phước Trung, another final-year student at the Border Defence Force Academy – lit fires and studied together for their graduation examination in June.
“We want to keep learning but we know we will only be allowed to go back to school once the disease is contained,” said Tài.
Hải teaches the Vietnamese language to local Khmer children in Tân Châu District, Tây Ninh Province. — Photo thanhnien.vn
In mid-March, Sub-lieutenant Danh Hải – Tài’s brother, who is a student at the Border Guard Secondary School 2 in the southern province of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu, was assigned to Tân Châu District’s Tân Hà Border Guard Station under Tây Ninh Province's Border Guard Command.
Young, fierce and observant, Danh Hải was sent to Checkpoint 1 next to boundary marker 99 between Việt Nam and Cambodia to guard the border and prevent illegal crossings.
Anti-smuggling forces had transformed a small bedsit where they used to rest into a quarantine checkpoint, said Colonel Triệu Ngọc Am from the Tân Hà Border Guard Station.
“The terrain is flat, making it easy for people to illegally cross the border if we are not on alert,” said Am.
“I sleep in a hammock outside the bedsit to make room for the other officers,” Hải said, adding the temperature could reach 40 degrees Celsius during the day but dropped drastically at night.
“People use these conditions to try and sneak through so we always have to stay alert,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Phùng Văn Minh, deputy head of the station, said Hải had observed and arrested tobacco smugglers entering Việt Nam from Cambodia in late April.
“The mission required great skill, especially in an unfamiliar area,” said Minh.
Despite their packed schedules, Hải and Tài spend a couple of minutes each day speaking to each other by phone.
“No matter how hard it is, we always have to try our best,” Hải told his younger brother. “We have received support from many people, so protecting the country’s border is the best way to say thanks for their assistance,” he added.
Hải graduated from the Border Defence Force Academy in 2017 and was appointed to Phú Mỹ District's Border Guard Station, ten kilometres from his hometown in Giang Thành District, Kiên Giang Province.
During his leave, Hải works on the family's fields, helping his parents to clear their debts.
“My parents are illiterate. Our only childhood aspiration was to become soldiers. Now we have all grown up, it is time to take care of them,” said Hải.
He plans to invite his parents to Tài’s graduation ceremony this August in Hà Nội.
“I have saved money for the trip. It will be their first plane journey and their first time in Hà Nội. However, due to the pandemic, the two of us have been sent to the frontline, so it may not be possible,” he said.
“It might seem like a struggle, but I believe we can all overcome this troubling time,” Hải added. — VNS