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In Memory of the War Heroes
By Bui Dinh Nguyen
from Vietnam Courier, July 23-29, 1995
No accurate tally has been made available about the number of dead and wounded, both military and civilian, in the two wars of resistance from 1946 to 1975.
According to the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, this must run into a dozen million. In the resistance against the US aggression alone, two million soldiers were killed or wounded, two million civilians were killed, two million others rendered invalids and still another two million were affected by Agent Orange sprayed by American aircraft which also caused malformation and deformities in 50,000 children.
So far, 1.1 million war dead have been identified. They left behind 1.8 million relatives. Also 600,000 wounded or diseased soldiers are still alive, not counting 300,000 war dead still accounted for.
Socialization of the care for war victims
In addition to two million fallen heroes and wounded and more than 6 million other war victims, the country has 8,500 veterans with outstanding services to the revolution and 27,861 mothers who have been honored as Hero Mothers. There are also 150,000 former resistance members captured and imprisoned by the enemy and four million war veterans. All of them are beneficiaries of preferential policies of the government.
The Vietnamese nation has a millenary tradition of gratitude to the sons and daughters who laid down their lives for the nation's freedom and independence. In his appeal on July 27, 1948, President Ho Chi Minh said: "...They sacrificed their lives to defend the lives of their compatriots. They are our heroes. Some have left part of their bodies on the front, others fell on the field of honor. Their parents lost their dearest ones. Their wives and children became widows and orphans... The war heroes and war wounded have sacrificed their lives for the Motherland and our people. To return their services our government has always sought every means to help the war invalids and the families of war heroes. I earnestly hope that our people will give them every possible material and spiritual assistance."
Since 1947, July 27 was made the Day of Fallen Heroes and War Invalids. From then to 1954 on that day each year, President Ho sent gifts and one month of his salary to the war invalids and families of fallen heroes. Also on that date, however, he would not fail to pay a visit to some families of fallen heroes or make bedside visits to war invalids at the hospitals. On the State plane, the government has issued many policies and ordinances providing preferential treatment to war invalids and the families of fallen heroes.
In spite of the enormous difficulties in the economic situation the State has devoted each year a considerable portion of the budget to supporting the families of fallen heroes and war invalids. On the social plane, an almost spontaneous movement has been formed very early to pay tribute and show indebtedness to the war heroes. So far the so-called Fund of Gratitude has collected 67 VND and more than 800,000 tons of paddy.
This movement also involves the offer of savings accounts totaling 41,300 million VND contributed by various enterprises and social organizations and overseas Vietnamese. In recent years, on the initiative of the social organizations in the localities, more than 70,000 small houses called "Houses of Gratitude" have been built and nearly 300,000 others repaired and refurnished for the benefit of the families of fallen heroes. Most recently, on the occasion of the 48th War Heroes and War Invalids Day, the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front and the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs together with the daily Nhan Dan and Vietnam Television launched a nationwide movement to care for the war invalids and families of the war heroes and to attend to the old mothers of war heroes or Hero Mothers.
Searching for and gathering remains of the heroes
So far, more than 600,000 remains of war heroes and heroines have been grouped in more than 3,000 cemeteries, the largest of which are the Truong Son (Long Range) and Dien Bien Phu cemeteries. In most villages and communes, the remains of war heroes have been gathered in a common place hallowed by a memorial obelisk. All the graves are marked with the names of the dead and in many cases with their portraits sheathed in plastic covering.
In some places memorial houses have been erected where people came to pay tribute on national or local festive occasions. Search is going on for the remaining missing-in-action and this work is conducted by government agencies, former companions-in-arms and their families. It would take at least two more years to identify the places of summary burial of all these young heroes. Since its founding in 1991 the War Veterans Association has opened a regular column called "Quest for information about relatives." So far this has helped identify the burial places of more than one thousand soldiers who had fallen on the field of honor.
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