A U.S. veteran has gone to great lengths to repatriate the keepsakes of a Vietnamese man fighting on the opposite front which he had treasured for nearly 50 years.
This month, Denver Shannon went to the home of Vietnamese martyr Le Van Cung, located in Cao Lanh District in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.
His trip had a deeply touching purpose: to give back Cung’s items which Shannon had kept over the past 46 years to his family.
The trip was also joined by a Vietnamese student working on a Ph.D. degree in the U.S. who served as an interpreter, and two Vietnamese poets who were integral to the painstaking location of the martyr’s home based on limited clues.
The mementoes included a nurse certificate awarded to Le Van Tanh, which was Cung’s pseudonym, and a neatly written notebook which the Vietnamese martyr had kept during his nursing training course.
The moving meeting was of particular significance as the family of Cung, who had been killed in action in his early 20s, had no keepsakes left behind by the perished man for worshipping purposes.
“Brother Sau [martyr Cung] would boast the nicest handwriting all over the area. Our mother would constantly mention him before she passed away,” Le Van Ut, martyr Cung’s younger brother, said in tears.
“I instantly recognized his mementoes only by his handwriting. We are deeply moved,” he added.
Poet Le Chi, member of the Vietnam Writers' Association, divulged that he partook in a literature exchange in Boston, the U.S., in June this year.
There he bumped into Shannon, who then sought his help in tracing martyr Cung’s family and returning his wartime items.
Shannon would work as a nurse and advisor to a military unit stationed in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City now) during the American war in Vietnam, which came to an end in 1975.
In 1969, during a battle near Co To Mountain, which stands aloft in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, he spotted a dying Vietnamese soldier, who he later found out to be martyr Cung.
Before drawing his last breath, the soldier handed Shannon a small bag and insisted he keep it.
“Struck by Shannon’s dedication and keenness to repatriate martyr Cung’s well-preserved mementoes to his family, I was set on helping him though we were almost clueless,” poet Chi said.
Chi then turned to his colleague, poet Huu Nhan, who resides in Dong Thap Province, for assistance.
“After one month, the search proved to be a dead end. We traced back to the two medical officers whose endorsement signatures are seen on martyr Cung’s nurse certificate, but the two are both dead,” Nhan said.
He then managed to track down some who had worked in the Kien Phong Province Medical Board, who had issued the nurse certificate to martyr Cung.
Kien Phong is an erstwhile name of the place that covered part of today’s Dong Thap Province.
The quest, however, was also futile as no one knew martyr Cung under the pseudonym Tanh.
Nhan’s last glimmer of hope turned fruitful when Dr. Pham Xuan Thu burst into tears at the first sight of martyr Cung’s nurse certificate.
Dr. Thu confirmed Sau Tanh (martyr Cung) was one of his subordinates, whose home is on Troi Islet.
Nhan immediately broke the great news to poet Chi and Shannon.
“We have fulfilled our duties entrusted to us by a martyr,” Nhan stressed.