Despite thorns, soldiers still view military life as filled with roses

Mai Nguyen, a reporter of Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper, made a note telling readers about the life of military officers and soldiers who are stationing in the country’s most severely isolated and remote areas.

Smiles of soldiers
Smiles of soldiers

From white pillars of ice in the border areas

Lieutenant Colonel Kim Dinh Tu from Xin Cai Border Post in Meo Vac District, Ha Giang Province, showed me some photos capturing the frozen landscape on extremely cold days, with the comment: "How beautiful it is!".

The temperature in Ha Giang Province’s karst plateau these days is around -1 to -2 degrees Celsius with ice fully covering trees, rooftops and army pith helmets. Tu recalled that the temperature even dropped to -4 degrees Celsius in 2008 with heavy snow.

People have praised the photos capturing soldiers wearing green uniforms standing out in white ice, which have been widely shared across public forums and the internet in winter. The photos receive many comments such as “beautiful”.

However, for anyone who has ever undergone such conditions, they are fully aware of the severe cold weather and will no longer see the scenery as beautiful.

The soldiers have experienced those days when frost blankets everywhere along the road, making their hands frozen, when motorbikes of the border guard had to be installed with fog lights for their patrol rides, when it is so cold that water turns to ice, the clothes cannot dry, and meals lose heat quicky before they even start eating.

They have also gone through sleepless patrol nights in temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius in the middle of the forest, trying to build a fire to keep warm in the winter.

I hadn’t expected that soldiers could still keep a romantic look at the bitter cold weather before Tu, who has stationed in Meo Vac for more than 20 years, showed me photos of ice covered trees. He called them “white pillars of ice”.

I once met Major Le Ngoc Son at the Sam Pun Border Post of in Meo Vac District. Son found a young rose myrtle tree and told me that if it receives good care, the tree will blossom soon. However, Son had left the border for a new task before the tree bloomed its first purple flowers. He hasn’t had time to return to Meo Vac to see the flowers with his own eyes.

Despite thorns, soldiers still view military life as filled with roses  ảnh 1

Soldiers of Xin Cai Border Post patrol in cold weather with ice covering branches of trees in a white glaze.

One year when Tet (Lunar New Year) festival was just around the corner, I went to A Pa Chai Border Post in Muong Nhe District, Dien Bien Province, which faces a hill covered in bold purple flowers. Soldiers there told me that when the flowers are in bloom, it is a signal of Tet.

At that time, the Ta Kho Khu bridge was not yet constructed, and people had to wade across a stream to reach the border post.

Now, A Pa Chai is getting crowded with improved infrastructure, but the soldiers there are still counting days until the wild flowers thrive and they will have some days off to return home and reunite with their families during Tet.

To brilliant dawn in remote islands

The easternmost island of Tien Nu in the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago is the first place to see sunrise, 60 minutes earlier than the mainland. However, it is also the furthest island of the archipelago.

Nguyen Trung Tam, a young soldier stationing in the quiet island, said that on his first day working on the island, while watching the sun appear on the horizon, he had a homesick feeling and wished to share the moment with someone else.

I am lucky enough to have admired sunrise in Truong Sa several times. I remembered one time on Len Dao Island, the sea became strangely calm and quiet. In the morning, when the sun rose and covered the white sand beach with splendid sunlight, I heard a soldier playing the guitar and singing from the balcony. The scenery came into my mind as a lively picture that I cannot forget.

After years being at sea, navy lieutenant Vu Thai Trong has fallen in love with beautiful waves. Trong's wife said that without waves he can’t sleep well. Although waves in the season of rough waters can make people badly seasick, Trong has got used to them.

Working in the engine room, Trong loves to see the sky and the blue waves rolling up in the sea. This is the most enjoyable time for him after stressful working hours.

Not many people understand what soldiers at border posts and remote islands face every day. Tourists may travel to the areas several times in their life, and might soon forget the land and people there. However, for the soldiers there, besides patrols over nights, they still enjoy every moment they spend in the places. Like the feeling of admiring sunset, waiting for flowers to bloom, or watching snow covering branches on trees.

Military life is not easy. However, embracing every hardship, the soldiers never forget to explore the beautiful things around them. Despite thorns, they still see a military life filled with roses.