A veteran’s search for fallen comrades

War veteran ​Dao Thien Sinh has sent some 40,000 letters to families of martyrs, informing them of their kin’s grave locations. ​(Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The
family of martyr Luong Khanh in Nha Trang city couldn’t hold back the tears
when they received a letter from a stranger informing them of the location of
Khanh’s grave.

The martyr had been dead for years
but the family couldn’t afford to search for his body.

The informant was veteran Dao Thien
Sinh in Vinh Khanh district of the south central coastal province of Khanh Hoa.

Since 1976, Sinh has sent about
40,000 letters to martyrs’ families and relatives, supplying them with
information he learned from trips to cemeteries nationwide.

“Since we heard about my elder
brother’s death, every day my mother longed for a letter which might inform us
of the place he was buried,” Sinh recalled.

Understanding the mother’s pain and
martyrs families’ thirst for news, Sinh decided to start travelling to

At 20, Sinh fought in the Quang Tri
battle field until Liberation Day on April 30, 1975. Four years later, he
re-enlisted to fight in Cambodia. Returning from both battlefields, he began a
normal job.

Using his free time, first he
travelled to cemeteries close to Khanh Hoa province to search for his
brother’s grave where he also found many unmarked graves. Then he started
collecting information engraved on the graves and began writing letters to
martyrs’ families.

“My father-in-law is lying down
here. It’s such a feeling of warmth knowing my father-in-law can finally rest
in peace,” said Tran Huyen Tran, the daughter-in-law of martyr Luong Khanh, as
she visited Khanh’s grave.

“He died when my husband was only
three. Years later, my mother-in-law lost hope in finding his grave due to the
family’s economic hardships,” said Tran, a resident of Nha Trang city.

“I and my husband burst into tears
upon receiving Sinh’s letter informing us that our father was buried in a
cemetery in Tay Ninh province and then Sinh and my father-in-law’s comrades
helped bring him home,” Tram added, saying that the father enlisted in 1976 and
died two years later in Cambodia.

“It was sad that my mother-in-law
was not alive to witness this miracle.”

Over the past decades, Sinh has gone
far and wide to more than 200 martyrs’ cemeteries including those for unknown
soldiers from the central province of Quang Tri to provinces in the
southeastern region.

Visiting any cemetery, Sinh noted
down every name, age, birthplace and any information available on martyrs,
searched for more information and decoded them before writing letters to the
martyrs’ families.

The trips took place day or night;
sometimes he even slept in cemeteries.

“I do this out of love for my fallen
comrades. I always feel something ‘pushing’ in my mind and my heart,” the
veteran said.

Sinh has also helped carry the
martyrs’ remains home. “It is an indescribable joy to bring them home, seeing
them rest in peace. I’m determined to do this job as long as my health allows,”
said Sinh.

Sinh’s mission hasn’t gone
unnoticed. He has received support from local post offices with more than
10,000 commune-based post offices delivering the letters to martyrs’ families
for free. Many other veterans have also helped him with funds to buy envelopes
and papers.

“My whole family is grateful for Sinh
as he let us know the location of my elder brother’s grave, martyr Bui Van Phuoc
who died in Cambodia aged 22,” said Bui Van Duoc, at his brother’s grave in Khanh
Hoa province’s Ninh Hoa township.

Deputy head of Khanh Hoa province’s
War Veterans’ Association, Ngo Mau Chien, said “Sinh is a person dedicated
to work related to veterans, especially writing letters about martyrs’ graves.”

Due to his efforts, Sinh has been
granted numerous certificates of merit by the Vietnam War Veterans’ Association
and Khanh Hoa province’s War Veterans’ Association.

Living relatives of the martyrs call
Sinh “a perfect connector”.

And Sinh will continue his journey
as he is uncomfortable with so many Vietnamese martyrs’ resting place still
unknown to their families.-VNA

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