Learning to Shutup From a Veteran of Dien Bien Phu

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November 16th 2007
Published: November 16th 2007
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He was Happy at firstHe was Happy at firstHe was Happy at first

Dien Bien Pho veteran is happy to talk at first
Meeting a Veteran of Điện Biên Phủ and Learning to Shut UP

This flight to Vietnam to Việt Nam was my worst ever. The main reason was I was packed to the gills with carry on. When you catch International Flights it seems you always have to walk a long way, most of the time you have to change terminals. I knew the best advice was to keep most of your stuff in your check in baggage. But with two bags each weighing 49.8 pounds a piece, full of medical supplies for the leprosy village and gifts for my Vietnamese friends I was forced to carry on a lot of stuff. I wore a sweater and two coats. I carried my camera equipment and an insulated bag with my diabetic supplies, plus a large briefcase, more like a small suitcase with no wheels with my computer and all my electrical supplies. It alone felt like 50 pounds. Plus, every pocket was stuffed to the maxim. Every time I went through the gate the flight personnel would bring out a scale with a dimension regulator to check carry on. I was fortunate in they never used it.

Every seat was
The wounds had been openedThe wounds had been openedThe wounds had been opened

To much to think about. I was sorry for dragging up bad memories.
sold on all my planes except from Taiwan to Việt Nam. It was on this flight I met an interesting person named for the purpose of this story: Ông Sự Gian Khổ (Mr. Hardship).

The reason he was so interesting to me was the fact that he was a veteran of the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ. The first veteran I had met of that battle over 50 years ago, one of the 20th most decisive battles in world history. What was even more interesting was that after he had fought on the Việt Minh side and the North gained independence from France with the Geneva Agreement of 1954 he moved South to South Vietnam. Which meant that he lost every thing except what he could carry. Then after the South lost in 1975 he again lost everything. He is now a citizen of the United States.

My eagerness in getting the (page two) of his life was too much for him. I soon realized that I was opening up one raw wound after another. For each part an exciting story to me was a time of extreme hardship and sadness for him. At the start he had a big smile for our photo together. When it finally dawned on me what I was doing, opening all those wounds of his past, he looked like his world had come crashing down on him again.

He finally turned to the passenger next to him and said: “This guy ask to many questions.”

The Vietnamese people have a saying: “Forget the past and move on to the future. I learned to be more conscience of this wisdom by talking to a veteran of Điện Biên Phỏ.


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