In the sweltering summer sun in the middle of the jungle, the delegation of veterans of the Vi Xuyen - Ha Tuyen Battlefield (now part of Ha Giang) and troops of the Search and Collection Team of the Ha Giang provincial Military Command were still enthusiastically making their way to Heights 233 and 400 in Thanh Thuy commune, Vi Xuyen district, Ha Giang province to search for remains of fallen troops.

Among the first groups of the delegation to these heights was a veteran on a crutch hobbling to the forest, holding on trees and climbing over rocks. He occasionally bent down to tighten the strap on his prosthetic leg, and then continued walking forward. He was veteran Nguyen Quang Tue, a wounded soldier in Dong Chua village, Thai Hoa commune, Ham Yen district, Tuyen Quang province.

Veteran Nguyen Quang Tue in a trip to search for remains of his comrades in Ha Giang province

Veteran Tue recalled that he was seriously injured in a battle in Vi Xuyen. He was luckily brought to the rear by his comrades for treatment. Undergoing many surgeries, he escaped death. In late 1986, he returned to his home town, losing 83% of his health. A nurse in charge of taking care of seriously wounded soldiers named Hoang Thi Yen fell in love with him and they got married despite his disability.

Returning to normal life and enjoying peace, since 1994, veteran Tue has many times returned to the old battlefield in Ha Giang in a hope of finding remains of his comrades as a token of gratitude to them. Mrs. Hoang Thi Yen said that, “whenever he hears any information about the remains of his comrades, my husband is eager to go immediately. Many times, sickness and painful wounds for months could not stop his footsteps.”

Over the past two years, veteran Tue and his old comrades have five times returned to the old battlefield to search for their fallen comrades’ remains. Even though he only had one leg with many scars, he still climbed up rocky cliffs, went down to deep valleys, and searched in rock tunnels in an attempt to find any traces of his comrades. There were times having crossed 5km of long and slippery mountain roads, while others were taking a rest, he started observing and crawling into every corner of the rocks to search. The enthusiasm and wishes of veterans, including Mr. Tue were paid off. The delegation found the location of two collapsed tunnels with one located at the height of 233m and one at the height of 400m, and traces of remains of fallen troops. They marked the places and handed over them to search and collection teams for further excavation.

Veteran Tue said, “as long as I'm alive and in a good health condition, I will go immediately if I hear any information about my comrades. I just hope that in the coming time, we will have further contact with veterans of the Vi Xuyen - Ha Tuyen Battlefield, witnesses, and more search trips will be organized to bring back more remains of fallen troops to their relatives and home towns.”

Colonel Thao Mi Dinh, Head of the Search and Collection Team of the Ha Giang provincial Military Command said, “we respect veterans for their sentiments for their fallen comrades, especially veteran Nguyen Quang Tue.”

Colonel Dinh added that despite his injury, old age, and only one leg, veteran Tue still overcomes difficulties and hardships to tirelessly search for his fallen comrades. “That is a source of encouragement for officers and troops who take on duties of searching and collecting remains of fallen troops,” the officer stressed.

Translated by Mai Huong