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Brother Ngoc

By Prof. Dr. Nguyen Trinh Co

That day, from 2 am, the shot spread widely after some quiet days. Machine guns exploded continuously like strings of firecrackers, mortar boomed in the deep night.

Six o’clock in the morning, in the hospital, we all got up and everyone was on duty. As usual, after uninterrupted and fast shots, members of the hospital were prepared, operation tool are steamed, space was ready for saving soldiers wounded in the front.

9am ... 10am ...

The attendance to and dressing the wounds of the wounded were already done but no new war invalids. We were still waiting.

By eleven in the morning, one stretcher slowly moved in the “waiting house” where new invalids temporarily rested before being sent to the operation house. Following the stretcher as a platoon commander whom I knew. I asked without waiting for him to come near:

-         How, sir? Are there many?

-         Only this little boy.

I look into the stretcher: a small body in the hollow of the stretcher, covered with a dark-blue blanket, letting out a full and bright face of an eleven or twelve year-old boy. He looked at me with wider open eyes and a feeling smile. I clapped on his forefront to comfort him and uncovered the bandage to see the wound. A first-aider gently turned his head to other direction.

-         You don’t have to do that. Let me see my wound.

Resting for a while, he told me:

-         Is my arm to be cut off, Doctor?

-         No worries.

I said evadedlly, with a calmly pretended voice in order to hide sadness: His elbow was badly rushed, no way to save.

The first aid giver gave Little Ngoc an injection of tonic an let him rest for sometime. I signaled the staff to make preparation in the operation room then together with the platoon commander walked around the yard to talk about Ngoc’s situation.

I told the platoon commander

-         The arm is shattered, can not be saved

-         What a regret! Little Ngoc is excellent, brave, daring and has helped in many ways.

Then deliberately, he told me why Ngoc was wounded.

From night, enemy was firing at our position. Early in the morning, the army guessed there would be an operation of enemy. The command needed urgent communication with a unit behind. Little Ngoc accepted the order and went out after the commander’s careful recommendations.

Going through a small dike, Ngoc approached the enemy’s stream of fire. He paused for a while, planning to round for safety. But remembering the commander’s words that affair very urgent, he bravely stepped straight forward. Covering some 20 meters, a mortar piece made him lie to the surface. Stinging pain in the arm. Ngoc untied the pioneer scarf tightly tied the wound, press tight to the chest, stood up, shuffled his feet forward. He arrived at the destinations, pale. After a nurse bound his wounds he begged to go to bed. Then, calmly, he slept soundly as if nothing had happened to him.

The operation room is ready. Little Ngoc lay stretched on the table covered the body with extremely white cloth. The room was quiet, Nickel box was glittering ... alcohol and steamed cloth evaporated... this familiar atmosphere tended to make people enthusiastic with their job.

I washed my hands and wore a steamed overcoat. At the same time, the anesthetist put the machine on Ngoc’s face. The room quiet, only the throbbing of the bubble in the anaesthetizing machine on his breath.

Suddenly, Ngoc convulsed and shouted loudly “Beware colonialists! Why did you fire and break my arm?” All of us in the operation room smiled at an utterance from a child’s mouth. Then another string of convulsion cry inserted into uninterrupted utterances. “The colonialists fired and broke my arm! ... ... ... My country is still fighting against them! Huhm ... ... keep the arm for me, let me fight them. Expel all of them! Ex... xp...el”.

For a minute, all staff in the operation room stopped. Everybody tried to look away. Some first adders turned their faces, used blouse flap to secretly absorb the tear flow.

Little Ngoc became the most favored in the hospital. There had always been someone to talk to or to read newspapers for him. Presents were so plentiful that he could not eat up. When changing the bandage, nursed surrounded him sang or teased him with an aim to help him forget the wound. But Ngoc always smiled, just a smile, not laughter. The smile made his face bright and people near-by shared his cheers and naturally smiled with him.

Some day later, the mother got the news, came to see him and stayed in to look after him. Each time visiting him, I realized that he was cheerful and well behaved. But first aid givers said when there were no strangers, Ngoc courted fondling from his mother: always asking her to fan or to give water. At meals, it was the very her to push rice into his mouth with chopsticks. To court fondling from mother is probably the natural character of all children!

A fortnight went by, Ngoc’s wound healed up. When he left the hospital, I went out to the village gate to see him off, shaking hands very strongly as if with a big friend.

Then, for 5 or 6 months, I had not got any news from Little Ngoc. That time I was visiting a convalescent house about ten or so kilometers. Going to one group, right after arrival in a house. Ngoc hurriedly ran to my place, letting down a too long sleeve! He told me he was at the time a liaison of a battalion there. I visited my old war-invalids. Before leaving, wishing to visit the battalion headquarters, I stood away from Ngoc, asking him the way. Without answer, Ngoc approached me, used his right arm to grip my clothes, stood on tiptoe and tried to cram his head. I understood what he meant, bowed sown, in time to receive his answer. The answer was as low as a breath: “the battalion HQ is at the village H.S” I embarrassed him closely, sincerely learned a lesson about secrets he unintentionally taught me.

I steadily looked at the full and bright face of Little Ngoc and the heart overflowed with great confidence in the future generation.


* Brother Ngoc now is Prof. Trinh Ngoc Trinh, Director of HEDO

* This story is printed at:

-         “Vui song” a newspaper of Military Health Service

-         “Nang” collection, a collection of Military Health Service.

-         Vietnam revolutionary literature collection.

-         Literature material for grade 5 of Education and Training Ministry

-         New work collection, the Author’s Association

-         Vietnam Invalid and Medical People collection, the Author’s Association

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