Overseas Vietnamese Gather at Truong Sa Archipelago

Nearly 50 overseas Vietnamese living in 22 different countries have embarked on an extraordinary and memorable journey to the remote and sacred Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands and DK1 rig, from April 18th to April 23rd. This is a journey that they will likely never forget.

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Truong Sa Archipelago: Rendezvous of Overseas Vietnamese
The overseas Vietnamese delegation prepares to board the Truong Sa 571 ship to visit Truong Sa and the DK1 rig.

6 years of waiting for Truong Sa

Born and raised in France, Vuong Huu Nghia, an electronic engineer, always wished to once set foot in Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago. Over the years, he read a plethora of books and documents, participated in film screenings and seminars, and listened to journalists and filmmakers tell stories about Truong Sa. Every time the Vietnamese Embassy in France announced a journey to Truong Sa, he registered without hesitation. After 6 years of anticipation, his wish ultimately came true.

When I heard that I had been approved by the Vietnamese Embassy in France, I was taken aback. It was hard to believe that my long-held dream had finally come true. Words can’t do justice to the emotions I was feeling – all I can say is that I was finally home. “Nghia said.

Vo Thi Dien, an overseas Vietnamese residing in Germany, decided to set aside all her work and return home to join the trip to Truong Sa. She was filled with nervousness and excitement, and stayed up almost the entire night before returning home.

Just thinking about the image of Truong Sa officers and soldiers fills me with an overwhelming sense of admiration that keeps me up at night. Every time I glance at my watch, I can’t help but long for the moment when I will finally board the ship,” Dien said.

All 47 overseas Vietnamese were filled with a mix of emotions ranging from nervousness to excitement and pride. Despite their contrasting feelings, they all had the same desire – to make the journey to Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands much shorter.

Connecting overseas Vietnamese

The loudspeaker of ship 571 stirred Nguyen Anh Tu from his slumber; he was an overseas Vietnamese living in Hungary. Room C11, a 15m2 area equipped with four bunk beds, was abuzz with laughter. Tu reminisced about his days as a student in a dormitory, yet this particular experience was especially unique as he was abiding by the rules of the military.

Since boarding the ship, all members were seamlessly integrated into the crew without any orders. They went to bed, woke up simultaneously, ate together, and discussed a variety of topics, particularly those related to Truong Sa.

“We live in different countries, each with their own distinct lifestyles. Nonetheless, we quickly became familiar with each other’s way of life and grew close. We shared stories about our lives and work, and then talked about our feelings concerning Truong Sa,” Tu said.

Truong Sa Archipelago: Rendezvous of Overseas Vietnamese
Overseas Vietnamese assist soldiers on the Truong Sa 571 ship.

Moments later, a cheerful group of singers and lecturers from the National University of Art Education arrived on the scene to lend a helping hand. The atmosphere was festive with laughter and chatter filling the air. Inside the dining room, a group of overseas Vietnamese sat down to slice meat, prepare vegetables, and divide food into trays to help the soldiers.

In the cockpit of the ship, members of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and overseas Vietnamese gathered to fold paper cranes in preparation for a ceremony honoring the heroes and martyrs who had sacrificed to defend Vietnam’s sovereignty over its seas and islands. Journalist Etcetera Nguyen, an overseas Vietnamese living in the United States, had also prepared portraits of naval officers, soldiers, and fellow expats.

Truong Sa Archipelago: Rendezvous of Overseas Vietnamese
They folded paper cranes to prepare for a ceremony.

In Area D, Room D8 of Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, a Polish expatriate, people gathered to practice their singing in preparation for the evening performances. They were eager to hone their vocal abilities and get ready to showcase their musical talents.

Truong Sa Archipelago: Rendezvous of Overseas Vietnamese
Help the soldiers prepare meals for the group.

After a morning spent at sea, the loudspeaker announced that it was time for lunch. Everyone quickly returned to their rooms, which, though cramped, provided enough space for eight people to sit together with two trays of rice. On the trays were dishes of vegetables, fish, meat, soup, and pickles. The sight was so appetizing that many of the guests couldn’t help but take pictures of the meal before enjoying it.

In the evening, on the deck of the ship, a chorus of amateur singers serenaded the audience with stirring songs of the sea, distant islands, and valiant soldiers. Their performance elicited enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

Truong Sa Archipelago: Rendezvous of Overseas Vietnamese
The night performance by overeas Vietnamese.

She told stories about the beauty of the landscape and the kindness of the people.

On this unforgettable journey, Hoang Thi Lai, an expatriate from Thailand, showed her enthusiasm and spirit for life despite her advanced age of 69. She sang traditional songs that praised her homeland and shared her vivid stories about its stunning landscape and the warmth of its people. Everyone in the group was moved by her passion and enthusiasm.

“We were together like that, going through long nights at sea. On starry nights, we sat on the deck, singing soldiers’ songs. In cultural performances, learning about the sea and islands, we put our arms around each other, raised the red flag with the yellow star, shared our love for our homeland and the sea and islands,” Hoang Thi Lai said.

On seven days of crossing the sea, the love of the sea and islands, and of the homeland, binds each Vietnamese person together. Whether they live in the country or abroad; whether they are naval soldiers, police officers, or businessmen, they all look to the Fatherland on the great solidarity ship, sailing towards Truong Sa.

Rosie Nguyen