General Le Nguyen Khang
Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers-in-arms, Mrs Le Nguyen Khang and Family.
General McArthur once said: "Old soldiers never die...they just fade away gradually."
But no vanishing act is ever unaccompanied by sadness and mourning. We old soldiers gather today to salute and mourn our brother, Le Nguyen Khang, who has left to join countless other brothers in another world.
Alas! A man is born to witness and take part in history, to suffer and enjoy the vicissitudes of Life. But a Life is a short but important thread in the tapestry of a nation's history.
General Le Nguyen Khang was born to a well-educated, tradional family in Son Tay Province, North Vietnam. He was a graduate of 1st Class of the Nam Dinh School for Reserve Officers. His was one of the many lives that was plunged into the depths of the Vietnam War. He started his military career as a low ranked officer. He fought bravely in the North against the growing communist movement. After the Geneva Accord was signed, he and his extended family migrated to the South in the Exodus of 1954.
In the South, he dedicated himself to fighting Communism - eventually becoming a General in the ARVN. His illustrious career was highlighted by many important positions. At one time or another he was:
Commandant of the Marine Division,
His long military life spanned the most tumultuous years in Vietnamese history. He served in both the 1st and 2nd Republic of Vietnam. Calm, astute, and impartial, he was often the mediator between opposing factions, and played a key role in averting many crises and turmoils that threatened to weaken the country.
He was a vastly experienced field commander, who led the Marines to many victories. Many fighters owed their lives to his skillful commanding. He was honoured with several National medals, and received many medals of bravery from Allied nations.
Three quarters of his military career was dedicated to the role of Commandant of the Marine Corps. He commanded respect - his men loved him for enduring all manners of hardship side by side with them. He always put in put more than was required of him in any operation. He was the Big Brother in the Marine Corps. He won the admiration of the South Vietnamese people and the ARVN for his high morality.
Socially, he was a good and sincere friend to many. To his family he was a filial son, a loving husband, a kind and concerned father...
In such a short life, Lieutenant General Le Nguyen Khang managed to accomplish many deeds for his country. His fame and reputation will no doubt last for all eternity.
Dearest, brother! It is Autumn, and the yellow leaves are falling. Time seems to have stood still as we mourn you. And here we are, taking part in a tragic scene - old soldiers in a foreign land, bidding goodbye to yet another brother.
Big Brother, you once said that everyone of us should return to our homeland to lay our bones. Alas! You've left us to make our own way back. Life is so ephemeral, and all must follow the course dictated by Nature. We, your brothers, pray that your soul will find eternal rest and peace.
Mrs Le Nguyen Khang and family, we gather today to pay our respects. We feel and share every nuance of this tragic event..."
Speech by Colonel Pham Van Chung
My Brother Le Nguyen Khang
I have known you for over forty years, and for fifteen of those years I shared many experiences with you. You were my senior, and I had a deep respect for you. I have always sought the guidance of an elder brother: this I found in you. In public, we were formal, but I cherish the ability to talk with you at ease in private. You were always friendly towards your men. Even when you were most angry, you would only say: "Come on you guys..." and let the sentence hang. As I write of you today, I hope I have your permission to be on familiar terms. To be formal would be too detached.
It is Fall, and as I watch the shrivelled leaves drop, I remember the Autumns we spent in Hanoi. I sit in the comfort of my room, surrounded by the love of my family. It is so quiet outside. My soul is calm, but my heart is full of sighs for you.
It was not so long ago - a mere 40 years - that I attended your wedding in Cho Lon. I remember you as the proud bridegroom of your svelt bride. You asked me why I was so well-dressed, and I replied: "Because it is your wedding!" I still remember that it was a light grey suit touched off with a purple bow tie. Dashing huh ?
How time flies...
More than twenty years ago, we were in the forest inside the Do Xa enclave. Remember how we stripped down to our underwear and dipped in the stream? Then we climbed out and warmed ourselves on the rocky shelves, admiring the clear blue sky, the high mountains and the trickling stream...a fleeting moment of bliss in the midst of horror. You sat on the highest rock ledge - it was an audacious act of Peace. You willingly risked your life to be at one with Nature.
At the zenith of your career, there were so many people orbitting about you that it was impossible for even your closest friends to contact you. Now I look around - there are at most five or six. Don't look at the harsh reality: forget and let your soul soar higher. When you came to a foreign land, beside you was your wonderful wife. You didn't have as many friends and advisers around you - but you had her... remember her, and take the memory of your love for each other with you.
Another twenty years was spent rebuilding your shattered life - but now, you are leaving for another foreign land. You waited for the end to come for more than a hundred days. And once again, it was your wife who stayed beside you, to caress you, to comfort you, to nurture you. She held your hand and recounted the deeds that you did, and the stories of your brothers-in-arms. I can't imagine a more romantic image. Keep it with you for all eternity.
Dear soldier... our country is still in trouble, but now that you are gone, we must look to the younger generation for others such as you. You are no longer a Sea Tiger riding the crests - you a now a bird, free to fly away. Leave all the painful memories behind, and take only with you the loving image of your wife. Love can always create Life and erase the wounds of war.
Be light, sleep... and soar higher and higher to eternal happiness and peace. And we other “Sea Tigers” will soon join in the flight to a better world. Farewell..
Colonel Pham Van Chung