A Yam in Yên Bái
Phung Dinh Nguyen - Phuoc Huu Pham
         Phước raised his voice.
         "Life has its own detours that no one could ever predict. Each one of us has a fate that we cannot avoid. I have thought about this problem many nights while being imprisoned. Had I decided not to return to Phước Long but stayed in Saigon at the end of my week pass, I would not have gone through all these terrible ordeals. Do you remember that after graduation, you went to Tây Ninh while I moved to the Phước Long hospital? I had received a one week pass to go to Saigon prior to the fall of Phước Long. My wife cried desperately when she realized I was adamant about reporting to the III Medical Corps Headquarters at Long Bình at the expiration of my pass. My father-in-law also told me that the situation was critical and I should not return to Phước Long."

         Phước took a deep breath and continued.
         "You know that I was young at that time and did not know how to deal with problems. I did not want to do anything wrong and once I had used up my week, I did not want to stay back. I showed up at the end of the day at Long Bình. The last helicopter of the day was ready to take off for the Phước Long provincial hospital. Nurses and officer medics were jammed packed inside the helicopter. Doctor Lieutenant Colonel Liên accompanied me to the helipad and told the pilot to hold the take-off for a while."

         He pointed to the officer medic who was sitting close to the door:
         "Please step down to make place for Dr. Phước."
         The young second lieutenant medic who probably had just graduated from school promptly stepped down without hiding his joy. Our eyes met when I was ready to step into the plane. I recognized the happiness of the medic, that of someone who was allowed to get back to earth when he was about to step into hell. Everyone knew that Phước Long was about to fall in a day or two and to be called to go to Phước Long was similar to receiving a death sentence. Our fates switched right at the moment when our gazes crossed that evening.

        Please read the rest in Forum 7: FACES OF THE WAR.