Gac Ma waves in the hearts of Vietnamese people

Every year, there are two memorial ceremonies on the ships carrying mainland delegations to the Truong Sa Archipelago and the Southern continental shelf, one in the waters of Co Lin and another at the DK1 rig area.

Fifteen years ago, in 2009, during my first visit to Truong Sa, I participated in such a ceremony held on the deck of ship 957. A banner stretched across with the inscription "Memorial ceremony for the martyrs who sacrificed on the Truong Sa Archipelago."

On the ship's mast, the red flag with a yellow star flutters against the morning sunlight. The color of the flag, and the banner's reflection, shimmering down onto the sea around the ship's hull, through the ripples of the waves, casts a strange, vivid red, reminiscent of the young soldiers' blood spilled on a March day many years ago, still vivid in each wave crest.

In that moment, a few lines from poet Nguyen Duc Mau resonate like a poignant reminder: “Thay cho mau co thanh minh la xanh rop troi cao/ Thay cho dong ten khac tren bia la trung trung song trang/ Thay cho dat nau la vo cung bien tham/ Cac anh chet roi, ten tuoi cung lenh denh...” (Replacing the hue of verdant grass is the vast blue sky above / Replacing the engraved names on tombstones are the endless white waves / Replacing the brown earth is the boundless deep sea / They are gone, their names adrift)

By 2009, the martyrs who had sacrificed to safeguard the sovereignty of the homeland in the East Sea still lacked a dignified memorial site bearing their full names for remembrance. Following that journey, we revisited Truong Sa several times, and much like the initial memorial, we continued to bear the weight of sorrow when the mournful music played, resonating over the silver ocean waves, carrying the souls of the fallen soldiers, "they are gone, their names adrift."

Exactly a decade ago, in March 2014, on the occasion of commemorating the 64 martyrs of Gac Ma, Chairman of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, Dang Ngoc Tung, called for contributions to the 'Sentimental Attachment to Hoang Sa - Truong Sa' program. This call deeply moved and touched millions of Vietnamese people. In a nation where thousands of years of history revolve around nation-building and defense, the sovereignty of the homeland's borders has always been secured by soldiers’ blood.

In a nation where vigilance remains ceaseless amidst peaceful days, ensuring the motherland is never caught off guard. One year after that call to action, on March 13, 2015, the Gac Ma Martyrs Memorial complex was inaugurated with a stone-laying ceremony, and the project was officially completed after over two years.

Now, on the route from Cam Ranh Airport to Nha Trang City, many Vietnamese people will be able to stop at this memorial site to reflect on Gac Ma and the East Sea. Beyond mere commemoration, it is also a reminder of Vietnam's islands, encouraging us to steadfastly nurture the hope that one day, all will return to the embrace of the motherland of Vietnam.

A corner of the Gac Ma Martyrs Memorial complex

It goes beyond mere statues or memorial complexes to express gratitude to the Gac Ma soldiers and honor the heroic martyrs who sacrificed for the sovereignty of the homeland's seas and islands. Three months ago, Tran Thien Phung, a soldier who returned from Gac Ma, passed away suddenly. He was captured as a war prisoner during the Gac Ma naval battle, lost contact, and his family once received a death notice from the unit.

So, nearly three years after being captured, he was released, still embodying the spirit of Gac Ma. During March events, he is frequently invited by numerous schools to participate in weekly gatherings alongside students and share his Gac Ma experiences. Many of Phung's comrades have lived similarly, always fostering that Gac Ma spirit.

This March, some Gac Ma soldiers have gradually been absent from the ranks of veterans like Phung, but their spirit persists. This morning, on March 14, 2024, in Ba Don Town (Quang Binh Province), a road will be named after the Heroic Martyr Tran Van Phuong, the commander who fell on Gac Ma Reef, still holding the national flag stained with his blood against his chest.

Like the waves carrying the spirits of soldiers that never cease to crash upon the East Sea, whether it be a solemn and majestic Gac Ma Martyrs Memorial complex, a street named after a Gac Ma soldier alongside the homeland river, or the Gac Ma veterans tirelessly passing on the flame of love for the seas and islands to their descendants, these stories evoke the image of waves embracing each other, bringing the silhouette of Gac Ma, relentlessly imprinting into the hearts of the Vietnamese people, eternally and ceaselessly.

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