August 3, 2011


Is based on the original Vietnamese article “Mây Trời Cam Lộ”
by VietNamese writer Giao Chỉ San Jose

             Photo: HIẾU GIANG RIVER - CAM LỘ

1/ LE’s life with Cam Lo at the beginning:

            If you get the map of Vietnam and rectangle immediately to the winning border North South East West, the center of that rectangular is called Cam Lo. This is where LE VAN TRACH was born. His classmate and also the neighbor on the other side of the Hieu Giang river will be his lovely wife later. We can address him as LE from now through the story.
            After learning all classes of Nguyen Hoang High School where is located in Quang Tri province. With his diploma, he left Quang Tri and went to Da Nang for working; even he still had to take care of his mother.
            From the country command, after the Tet Offensive 1968, he is called on the Military Course. Among thousand of graduated soldier with high ranking on the selected report list, there was 6 of them were chosen to the Military Intelligent Field. They temporary went to the G2 of General Staff to work and waited for a special course for their career in the Cay Mai Military Intelligent School.
            Leaving that school, he asked to work for The South Vietnamese First Corp where it was under fighting every single day. It seemed like he wanted to come back to his homeland. Throughout childhood, the young LE was around with Quang Tri, Dong Ha, Cam Lo. The Legend Road 9 from the Ha Lao battle was so terrible, but it was familiar with him and led him to the homeland where he loved so much from the bottom of his heart.

 2/ Wedding in village:
            The great artist Hoang Thi Tho of Quang Tri province is the very poetic musician wrote a song about the countryside wedding. The pleasure of LE cannot be exciting like that in 3 months from his wedding in 1971. He asked for a special permission from the chief of Military Committee to leave his fighting spot for the wonderful wedding. Meeting the bride relatives in two previous days, the groom in the soldier clothing brought the dust from Khe Sanh to Cam Lo. In the day of wedding ceremony, 20 boys walked through the Ðuoi Bridge and brought precious presents for the wedding to the north shore of the Hieu Giang river. It was such a beautiful day with the white cloud up to the nice sky and the sun of Cam Lo glittered down to the Hieu Giang river. Far away, he heard the sound of the guns fire from the mountains. In Vietnamese traditional dress for the groom, he also listened to the depart sound of the guns from the North Vietnamese Army and wondering about where the central mission is and where the battle is.
 According to the traditional wedding of Quang Tri, the groom team brought special presents such as Trau Cau which are the Vietnamese traditional wedding fruits, wedding cakes, and wine to the bride’s house and they are invited to the tea party. Then all of the groom team were back home with the bride’s house from the North to South shore of Hieu Giang river. The most happiness of LE was to live with his wife who is graduated from nursing major. She works as a midwife at the town of Quang Tri province. After getting married, they lived in the camp of soldiers and units.

Photo:          ĐUỒI BRIDGE - CAM LỘ
Vietnam War was more intense and their children in turn were born. When the summer began in the Easter Offensive of 1972, the couple had the first child.
Sub Lieutenant LE reported to the Central Military Committee the day that matched to track the source of the period mentioned on the timely decision. One of the important information that he reported was about the date and time accuracy about the Quang Tri Battle 72 started at the end of March in 1972. Within the private, he was preparing to be evacuated family, but his mother and wife relatives in the hometown stayed. Later, he and his wife were so sad because they knew that his parents’ wife and relatives got killed and the town was destroyed completely under bombing.

3/ The dates do not forget:
            The peaceful time was no longer available. From 1972 to 1975 the fate of the town and his family were so struggle even harder. A foreign journalist on the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) is confirmed from LE about the loss of Quang Tri.
The North Vietnamese Army took control the entire territory from the South Ben Hai river to My Chanh  river. Villagers from Cam Lo area of Quang Tri has to build Cam Lo district in Hai Lang and LE’s wife continued to work as midwife while her husband was in another province which was Da Nang as a soldier.
In March 1975, he fortunate gathered his family running from Da Nang to Cam Ranh toward to Southern Army for saving. Later on, people in Cam Ranh wanted to run toward to Southern of Vietnam, but he decided to stay in Cam Ranh because his wife was giving birth their third child which is a girl!


              Left: The girl was born in Cam Ranh
              Right: The youngest girl of Le

            Two girls of Le’s - one was born in Cam Ranh became the nuns of Engaged Buddhism. They are practicing mindfulness cultivates understanding, love, compassion, and joy. That practice helps all of us including above nuns to take care of and transform suffering in our lives and in our society to live through relationship harmony together. Then, we all live in peace in ourselves with the order of interbeing, our families, and in the world. The path also thinks and respects the death people.

  Photo: The youngest girl of Le

4/ Back home:
             Finally, in March, 1975, he returned back home to Cam Lo  with his aged mother, wife, two little children, and embracing the new girl. When Communism Government of North Vietnam took control over Vietnamese country at the end of April 1975, he was put into the Re-Education Camps for 7 years. The reason that the communism government caught him in the middle of midnight was he was a soldier of Military Intelligent for 6 years in different regime. Again he left his family themselves in Cam Lo.

5/ About the Re-Education Camps:
            The collapse of Saigon in April 1975 changed lives of all people who worked for Southern Government of Vietnam. People continued to suffer from what communist called rehabilitation and reconstruction to control South territorially. Hundreds of thousands of former military officers, bureaucrats, politicians, religious and labor leaders, scholars, intellectuals, lawyers, critics of the new regime were ordered, arrested, and sent to "reeducation" camps and faced to force hard labor and severe privation. The Re – Education Camp is the official name given to the political prison camps by the communism government at the end of Vietnam War in 1975.  The Re – Education Camp has truly the meaning of revenge and sophisticated technique or repression and indoctrination.
               The Re – Education Camps conditions were very poor, with little food or no food, no medicine, and a high death rate or sickness. The communism government did treat South soldiers so badly. The political prisons in the Re-Education Camps lived through deprivation and torture of the camps. There had been no criminal law. They are "concentrated for re education" by administrative decisions based on Resolution # 49, dated June 20, 1961 of the Standing Committee of the 2nd Congress in Hanoi. The government defined that they were learning about the ways of the new government.
            They are fed at 12 kilograms (29 lb.) rice and rice substitutes monthly. This could be reduced to 9 kg (19 lb.) if the prisoners failed to achieve the required work from hard labor. This caused of high death rate. Also, for the following reasons that killed the Re-Education Camps political prisons too:
-        Crippling or suffering with broken ribs and bones after being beaten to pulp by guardians
-        Beatings are done every evening at the criminal prisoners' ward. Usually, those prisoners who violate the camp's regulation are kept in solitary confinement cells and their legs are locked in stocks. Food is reduced.
-        In many camps, political prisoners in dark cells were given two small bowls of rice a day, mixed with a tablespoon of salt and a little water
-        Died in detention, committed suicide, from hunger strike, of food poisoning, by explosion while clearing land mines, of untreated illness, from exhaustion, executed at labor site, of malnutrition, shot by a camp guard, disappeared after or under interrogation, beaten to death after failed escape, drowned at Falls during hard labor, etc….
Coming back to LE’s fate. He had the same fate like his friends through Re-Education Camps for 7 years. Some of them had been in the Re-Education Camps for 17 years.

    Photo: Le & His wife
6/ The new home:
            In May, 1982, he was back home with his family and built a new house. Unfortunately, match fire was completely burnt this house. All had to do again from the beginning.
            In 1984, the couple had twin: one boy and one girl. He was very proud all of his children special with his son. Since the time that LE was in the political prison until he came to the United States under the HO program, he had to wait for 13 years.
            HO (Humanitarian Operation) is a program set up between the United States and Vietnam about re-education internees. Secretary of State George Schultz signed an agreement which allow the admission of these former internees with at least 3 years of incarceration in a known re-education camp.      
            LE’s family was an orphaned HO, no one kinship supported. They got help from the Pecan Catholic at the beginning in the new place of Tennessee. The couple worked for a living in a foreign country.
            Under the Vietnam War, the Easter Offensive of 1972 led Cam Lo Le’s village became the famous place in war, the Tennessee people came to Con Tien Cam Lo and sacrificed their lives to fight for the freedom, then later, Tennessee did welcome LE and his family as new refugees for a new life.
            In 2004, Le came back to his village to take care of his mother who got sick and in 2005, again he went back to the mortuary.  
            LE’s family is a normal family like any Vietnamese family, but both parents’ sides and relatives got killed under the Colonial French time period and during the Vietnam War:
-        His grandfather who was Cam Lo Village Chief got killed from The League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, Viet Minh for short).
-        His father died when he was 3 years old from the shot of a French soldier, when the country was colonized by France.
-        His father-in-law got killed from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN – South VN)
-        His mother-in-law and relatives died from bombing of the United States Army.
-        It sounds like his family was torn during the Vietnam War terribly like the fate of Vietnamese country under the power of other countries. Yet, he never blames on anything or anyone, never complains about the units of the army on both Northern and Southern of Vietnam.
-        He was a soldier of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN – South VN) for 6 years, a political prison in the Re-Education Camps under the Communism regime for 7 years, a farmer for 13 years in his village Cam Lo after the Vietnam War, and an employee in the United States since the time that he came in 1995 until now.
                            VIETNAM COUNTRY MAP                                QUANG TRI PROVINCE MAP
LE  is very interested with the idea of Quang Tri movie will make. It will talk about the sympathy in the humanity meaning for those people suffered during the Vietnam War in the long period of time such as his grandfather, his father, his father and mother-in-law, and all the couple’s relatives. No matter what happened, his heart is always with the Cam Lo village which is far away from where he and his family live right now. His thinking likes the cloud in the peace and blue sky of Cam Lo village in the past.