29 May 2006

Memorial Day 2006

Memorial Day in the U.S. is supposed to be a day when we pay respect to the soldiers who gave up their lives for the United States of America. I've been in the U.S. more than half of my life but I don't personally know anyone who have died for the U.S., but I do know about someone who died for his country.

On my father's side, I know of an uncle-in-law who was a policeman for the South Vietnam government. Let us call him Uncle F. He was a very honest man, which probably made him stick out like a sore finger, what with all the corruption in the South Vietnam government. According to my mother, he once worked in the Torture Department, but he was the first to faint when a subject was tortured. Then he was transferred to the Fingerprint Department, but there he was kicked out of as well because he was too slow. He was assigned the task of fingerprinting some dead bodies and had to look away while working on them. One time he was just being honest and helped some wrongfully arrested man. The man, a butcher, offered him all kinds of rewards, including a roasted pig, but he refused them all.

According to my youngest uncle, on the day South Vietnam fell, April 30, 1975, Uncle F was told by his superiors to fight to the death, while they themselves ran away. He did and was chased by the victorious Viet Cong through a few houses. He was cornered in some house's restroom and was then shot dead. With him he had two guns, probably handed down by the cowardly superiors.

Everyone in the family think his death was a waste. That he was just being foolish, too honest. Kho+\ (khờ) is the word they would use, in Vietnamese. To me, he's a hero. To die for one's country, what a sacrifice. Of course with all the hindsight of survivors, with all the knowledge of the corrupted Saigon regime, about all the superiors who abandoned their soldiers, of all the other soldiers who simply threw down their guns, took off their helmets and boots, and abandoned their posts to return home to their families, Uncle F's action seems foolish, but how would one know?

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