Saturday, February 7, 2009

Remembering The Deceased

On the first day of Tet Vietnamese people visit the graves of their deceased family members. Huyen's parents invited me to go along with them. We got on our motorbikes and rode out to the rice paddies where the graves are located.

The first stop was at a cemetery with about thirty graves. Huyen's parents burned incense and said a prayer for Huyen's great grandmother.

The second stop was in the middle of a rice paddy. This is where Huyen's father's parents are buried. They were the only graves in site.

(PICTURE: Walking through the rice paddy to visit Huyen's grandparents graves.)

The final stop was at an Army cemetery. My first thought upon seeing the cemetary was shock at the number of graves -- I counted about sixty. You have to keep in mind that we were just on the outskirts of a small village. If you want to relate it to America, her village is roughly the same distance from Hanoi that Livingston (my hometown) is from New York. The difference is that Livingston has around 30,000 people. Her village has probably 1,000 max. For such a small place, they've had a large amout of people sacrifice for their country and cause.

We went to this cemetery, because as some of you may recall from when my parents visited, Huyen's Uncle died in the war between America and Vietnam. While visiting the grave, I found out that Huyen's Uncle died in Cambodia during the war but his body has never been found. He has a grave at this cemetery but his body is missing. Huyen told me that there is an organization looking for her uncle's body as well as many other Vietnamese soldiers.

(PICTURE: The Army cemetery.)

One flag that has always meant something to me is the P.O.W. * MIA flag:

Every time I've ever seen one I always feel a strange sensation come over me. I've always thought how hard it must be for families who can't get closure because the body of their loved one is missing. One of my strongest memories as a child is when my family went to The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washingston, D.C. and thinking that there's really nothing more tragic in war than not knowing what happened to someone you love.

I must admit that whenever I've had those thoughts I've had American soldiers in mind. All too often when we think about war we only think about "our side." Being told about Huyen's Uncle just reconfirmed how terrible war is for everyone, no matter the outcome. As my father said a couple of months ago, "There are no winners in war."