The Vietnam General Labor Confederation solemnly launched a program on Thursday to commemorate 138 Vietnamese soldiers who fell in the 1974 and 1988 battles against Chinese forces to safeguard Vietnam’s sovereignty of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in the East Sea.
>> Sculptor proposes building stone island for Truong Sa heroes >> Memorial temple to warm souls of fallen Truong Sa heroes >> Vietnam to build memorial temple for fallen Truong Sa soldiers The launching ceremony for the program, “Nghia Tinh Hoang Sa -Truong Sa” (“Sentimental Attachment to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa”), was conducted in the central city of Da Nang one day earlier than initially planned. The program is also intended to give support to the parents, wives, children, and relatives of these soldiers. Among the participants were the relatives of 64 fallen combatants, who died while fighting the Chinese forces that attacked and occupied Gac Ma Island, a part of Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago, on March 14, 1988. Many veteran soldiers who survived that battle also attended the event. Speaking at the ceremony, Dang Ngoc Tung, chairman of the Vietnam General Labor Confederation, said in a touching voice, “Forty years ago, on January 19, 1974, China used force to occupy Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago, and 74 officers and soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam Navy (the naval forces of the South Vietnam administration before 1975) unyieldingly battled the Chinese to safeguard Hoang Sa and died in action, resting forever in the sea surrounding the archipelago. “All of these fallen combatants, who were soldiers in the country’s different historical periods, shed their blood to protect the territorial integrity of their beloved fatherland. It is thus very necessary to honor their great sacrifice and merit, and to alleviate the suffering of the mothers, wives, and children of those who sacrificed themselves to protect Hoang Sa in 1974 and Truong Sa in 1988,” Tung said. He went on to say that “this program aims to extend gratitude to the combatants who fell in protection of Truong Sa and Hoang Sa, to honor those who bravely sacrificed themselves to safeguard the fatherland, and to show the spirit of national unity.” The official also expressed his hope that this program will help promote patriotism among present and future generations. The program calls on individuals and organizations, both at home and abroad, to contribute to the building of a memorial temple for the 64 officers and soldiers of the Vietnam People’s Navy who perished in the battle on Gac Ma Island, Tung said. It also appeals for contributions to relieve difficulties in life for those who are parents, wives, children, and relatives of the combatants who were killed in the two battles on Hoang Sa (in 1974) and Truong Sa (in 1988), he added. The memorial temple is expected to be built in the area between Cam Ranh Airport and Nha Trang City in the central province of Khanh Hoa.Sufferings At the ceremony, Pham Thi Ninh of Nghe An Province, the wife of Pham Huy Son, one of the 64 Gac Ma heroes, told the participants that she has suffered from the pain of losing her husband for the past 26 years. “When my husband died, I was three months pregnant while our first child, a boy, was learning to walk. Not long after that, my son was struck with a serious illness. Now my son is 30, but he is still suffering health problems that have made him as naive as a three-year-old boy,” Ninh said. “I have lost my husband and my children have lost their father forever. I only hope that my husband’s flesh and blood that have long been mixed into the transparent blue sea will always be significant,” she said in tears. Also present at the event, Vu Xuan Khoa, the son of another Gac Ma hero, Vu Phi Tru, the captain of naval ship HQ-604, said he was just three months old when his father went to Gac Ma. Before going to Gac Ma, Tru promised Khoa’s mother that he would take the family to Cam Ranh, where his unit was stationed, but he never had the chance to fulfill his promise, Khoa said, citing his mother’s words. “Whenever I was told about the battle in which my father died, I feel as if I saw the last image of my father before he fell,” Khoa said. Recently, Khoa has accompanied a number of naval soldiers to Truong Sa, where his father and other heroes sacrificed their lives almost three decades ago.