Tran Dung Hung
“After I graduated from high school I went to work at a tea plantation in Hoa Binh. I met Lan there and we became close friends. We enlisted in the army on the same day in 1967 and walked south together for two months on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I was smaller than Lan so he helped me carry my gun. He’d have one in front and one behind and told me it was easier to carry two—they balanced each other out. But actually he carried my gun because he loved me and wanted to help. We were in the same company and fought the enemy together in Quang Tri south of the DMZ.
One afternoon Lan and I agreed that if I lived and he did not that I would please remember to visit his home and talk with his father to tell him what happened. I should not tell his mother because she had suffered a heart attack and her heart was weak.
In 1971 I returned home in the north but Lan remained behind in Quang Tri. While I was in my hometown one of my friends from the war visited and told me that Lan died. So we went to visit Lan’s family but didn’t tell them Lan had died. Lan’s mother asked that my friend bring Lan a gift and we were afraid that if he didn’t take the gift and pretend to deliver it to her son, she would suspect Lan had died. She sent tobacco as a gift and we knew another soldier in the unit could use the tobacco.
A few years after Lan’s death the government sent a letter to his parents informing them of his death. His father received the letter but kept silent and did not tell his wife. He kept the letter hidden in a box for a few years but Lan’s mother eventually found out about her son’s death anyway.
I first began to write poetry in 1967 after I enlisted. I wrote about love, friendship, family and war. I became more passionate about these things because of my war experiences. Over time the poems became more powerful, more passionate and more human because of the war.”