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Luke Johnston in 15-year easing the pain of war

Update: 09-04-2024 | 14:36:04

In 2009, Luke Johnston began his journey to Vietnam with the desire, on behalf of his father - a former Australian soldier, find the remains and relics of the revolutionary soldiers of Vietnam who sacrificed during the war. His luggage at that time was a few broken Vietnamese words along with documents and information about the Vietnam War through stories and through his father's collection. After 15 years of dedication, he now has a Vietnamese name, Lực, and has made many contributions to the search and collection of the remains of martyrs.

The ghost of war

During the revolutionary period of the resistance war against the US Army in the South, Australian forces were engaged in Vietnam as an ally. 8 years of war from 1965 to 1973 later enchanted the two words Viet Nam as a haunting ghost of many Australian veterans, including Mr. David Charles Johnston - father to Luke Johnston.

According to Mr. Luc's account, his father - Mr. David Charles Johnston only fought for 11 months in Vietnam from late December 1967 to November 1968 when he directly participated in many places, from Ba Ria - Vung Tau, to Trang Bom of Dong Nai, Hoi Nghia, Binh My of Bac Tan Uyen district and others. Wherever he were present, the battles were so fierce that close friends and comrades just fell before him. Mr. David Charles Johnston returned to Australia with a severe wound in his heart and the image of the Vietnamese revolutionary soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the country. They were even buried in mass graves while he himself was also discriminated against by many Australians for participating in the unjust war. After nearly 1 short year of battle in Vietnam, Mr. David Charles Johnston had to pay the price for the rest of his remorseful life persistently haunted by Vietnam War. He mút have suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and never escaped the disturbing memories of the horrific scenes he witnessed in the Vietnam War like many other Australian veterans.

Lực (far right) is at all time with people searching and collecting remains of martyrs of Binh Duong province

Lực retold: “I witness my father experiencing nightmares every night. My father was always tormented by the sins he had committed against the families of the Vietnamese people. The fathers, the children who laid on the fierce battlefield leaving behind pains for the mothers, the wives at home. But perhaps what tormented them the most was that after many years, many families still do not know where their beloved ones had laid down, where their bodies were buried. They have never bowed their heads to nor lighted incense in memory of their beloved ones.”

The obsession was growing in Lực’s mind as the questions about Vietnam as a country and a battlefield so haunting to his father. In 2009, of his 33, he came to Vietnam with his little bit of Vietnamese.

For them to be home

The image of an Australian man at all times with the search and rescue team, collecting the remains of martyrs in Choi Dung hamlet, Binh My commune, Bac Tan Uyen district in recent days has become familiar to locals. On the makeshift vehicle, he is present early every day. Talking with him, we heard him saying: "When I first set foot in Vietnam, everything was strange. At that time, I couldn't imagine what awaited me, especially the people on the other side of the battlefield after so many years. But I found the Vietnamese people very friendly and lovable. And I have come to the places where my father had been. Now the scenery has changed a lot but those coordinates or the positions still engraved there."

When Lực first came to Vietnam, it was impossible to make video calls like now. Every day, he called his father to report the situation and to confirm whether he had arrived at the correct location. "I am truly saddened that there are still hundreds of thousands of unidentified martyrs' remains. Therefore, I believe that I should contribute my part of responsibility in carrying out the necessary tasks to bring the martyrs' remains back to their loved ones," Mr. Luc said.

Lực is on his motorbike on the way to find remains of martyrs

Based on the information obtained from the three gentlemen of the US agencies and from the Australian veterans who fought in Vietnam to accurately determine the position, coordinates and locations to search for and collect the remains of martyrs, he knocked on the door of the Australian Embassy in Vietnam for assistance. Based on Mr. Lực's files, the Office of Defense Attaché under the Australian Embassy to Vietnam contacted the Foreign Affairs Department under Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for help.

And what obtained today really touched Mr. Lực. After 20 days of searching and collecting the remains of martyrs (counting from the day the provincial Steering Committee 515 conducted the groundbreaking ceremony to search and collect the remains of martyrs), the search and collection force of the provincial Military Command found many martyrs' remains along with many military items such as helmets, uniforms, rubber boots, water bottles, pens, shovels, pickaxes among others.

When the skeletons, relics were found, Mr. Lực was very moved. He said: "So they are about to return to their families. Our search efforts have paid off. Up in the heaven, I believe my father is at peace."

Reported by Thu Thao – Translated by Vi Bao

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