These national flags, seen as sacred souvenirs, are faded by wind and sea waves, have the salty taste of Vietnam’s sea and islands, and bear the sacred souls of heroes and troops who have sacrificed their lives to defend national sovereignty markers.

Image of the Fatherland in the middle of the sea

Leaving the port, mainland, and bidding farewell to comrades, Ship KN-491, with the working mission No.2 in 2024 on board, headed for Truong Sa island district, Khanh Hoa province. On top of the ship’s conning tower, the red flag with the yellow star in the center proudly fluttered in the morning sun.

During the long journey, one of the images I liked to see the most was the national flag. In the middle of the sea, in the high blue sky or in the late afternoon sunset, the flag was like a blazing flame on the flagpoles of cargo ships, fishing boats, on top of the conning towers of naval ships, fisheries surveillance ships and coast guard ships, on the stern of boats operating between the ship and islands.

The national flag brought back from Truong Sa appears in a class at Hanoi-based Chu Van An High School.

On the flagpoles on islands, platforms, on the chests of troops, on sovereignty markers and on wreaths in commemoration of heroes and martyrs who forever lie deep in the sea to safeguard every inch of the homeland, the national flags are different in colors and sizes, sometimes cheering in the sun and wind, sometimes fluttering fiercely, sometimes calmly on wreaths floating in the sea. All of them evoke the pride and confidence because wherever the national flag is, the Fatherland is there.

In Truong Sa, national flags are faded or worn out after a week since they are raised due to salty wind, strong winds, and harsh weather conditions. When a flag is no longer intact, it is replaced with a new one. The old flags are carefully signed, stamped and kept by island troops as souvenirs for guests. These are sacred gifts from Truong Sa to delegations visiting islands.

Holding the ‘special souvenir’ of Co Lin Island (Collins Reef), non-commissioned Senior Captain Nguyen Thu Lien, an officer of the Department of Military Science, excitedly said that “My wish has been realized.” For Lien, national flags on islands are the same in value. Those flags “absorbed” wind, mist and salty taste of the homeland's sea and islands, affirming Vietnam's sovereignty over the Truong Sa archipelago. She said that the flag on Co Lin Island has a special meaning because the island is the closest to the area where 64 troops sacrificed their lives to defend Vietnam's Gac Ma Island (Johnson Reef). Lien said that she will put the flag in a mica box and in a solemn position in her family's living room.

Sending the spirit of Truong Sa

The national flags hung on 21 islands in Truong Sa island district are not only a meaningful gift from Truong Sa soldiers to the mainland, but also an entrustment and spread of love. Lieutenant Colonel Bui Van Hieu, Deputy Political Commissar of Phan Vinh Island (Pearson Reef), said that all national flags raised on the island are kept as souvenirs to delegations. “The flags are torn after a week of hanging. It proves the harsh weather on the island and how the soldiers preserve the flag - the flesh and blood of the homeland.”

Receiving the national flag from Truong Sa, Do Thi Thanh Nga, a teacher of Geography at Hanoi-based Chu Van An High School, emotionally said that, “from now on, the national flag imbued with the spirit of Truong Sa's troops and people is with me in my teaching life.” She recalled that her students were very surprised when she opened the lesson by hanging a flag which is not intact on the board. When hearing the explanation of why the flag had such a state and the story of Truong Sa, the story of the naval troops and the people of Truong Sa who are courageously overcoming difficulties to safeguard the frontline islands of the Fatherland, the students were really moved.

“Knowledge about the sea and islands not only helps students pass the final exam, but also nurtures their journey in life, their dreams and desire to do something for Truong Sa, national sea, and islands. Most of all, the students were inspired by Truong Sa troops to overcome hardships. I hope teachers of History and Geography nationwide can have field trips to Truong Sa to spread the spirit of Truong Sa to generations of students and people after the trips,” said teacher Nga. 

Nguyen Hoang Hai, a 12th grader at Chu Van An High School, said that he thought the flag was a war keepsake. “When I learned that the flag was brought back from Truong Sa, I understood that defending national sovereignty is the same in different periods. It is devotion, readiness to sacrifice.”

For 12th grader Ngo Minh Son from Chu Van An High School, he wanted to learn more about new technologies and the most effective solutions to problems and difficulties facing the people and troops in Truong Sa.

By Thu Ha

Translated by Mai Huong