Peace and Freedom
February 20, 2007
He was, perhaps, old enough to die, living past his 70th year. But he was the youngest in his family and now, being the first to die, there is a special sadness. Since his brother is older still and he has older sisters and aunts living into their 90s, everyone will say he left us too soon.
He experienced about the average life for men of his upbringing, his nation and his age. Before he was well into his thirties his nation was rent apart by war. He served honorably as an officer, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, only to see his nation abandoned by its ally and then fall into Communism.
He lost his wife to malaria when he was still in his early thirties.
About his war service his nieces know little but they all recall one thing: he was a beautiful man in his uniform. One likened him to Chuck Norris. Another to Charleston Heston.
He spent ten years in "re-education," as most men in his generation did. It was really a concentration camp. Many did not come out in their right minds.
While he was in "re-education" his son, aged 5, died of meningitis.
He came to America in mid-life and although he was joyful at the prospect of living in his new home in freedom; there was a deep inner sadness. He was not in his home and likely would never see it again. You don't lose a war and your country and then hold your head quite as high as you once did.
He gave of himself, moving in with an old general when that leader had no relatives or friends to care for him in his last years. He became like a son to the general; feeding him and seeing to his needs right up to and including the burial. Now his family and friends will see to his burial.
He had deep faith, at least as a young man.
But he lost his faith somewhere and stopped going to church. Having survived war and prison it is no wonder he felt, perhaps, forsaken.
But there is already talk of regret by those that did not embrace him enough. He returned from war and "re-education" a quiet man who confided little. He lived with a woman who he never married and never introduced. He told me he had "too much fondness for women of the opposite sex." There was talk that he drank too much too but I never saw him unsteady.
He probably had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but the Vietnamese don't believe much in getting help outside the family and the community. And there was no Veterans Administration for him: he was a veteran of an army and a nation that no longer existed.
He used to go to his uncle's (my father in law's) house just to sleep for a few days and talk and be comforted. He had his ghosts and demons.
After my father in law had a stroke, he determined that my stricken father in law should only drink a certain brand of bottled water. He had thoses bottles hidden in every nook and cranny of the house.
And he died alone by his own choosing.
He was my Bac or Uncle Chi and it is with deep sadness that I report his passing.
When Chi is placed into the ground for eternity, he will finally be with his wife and son. Their ashes will be buried along side his remains. Ironic that those of us that follow can do this kindness for a man who lived most of his life in isolation.
There is a flag of no status now, because it represents a country long gone. It is yellow with three red stripes. The red stipes represent the three Vietnams: the North, the Central Highlands, and the South.
I think I will make a blanket of that flag, the flag Bac Chi fought for and never surrendered, for his last journey.
Few will notice and few will grieve. But he was a good man that gave his all to his nation in what turned out to be a lost cause. And now it has taken him too early too. He is in God's hands now.
God rest you, Bac Chi.
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