Organization helps find and identify the graves of those who died in Vietnamese 're-education' camps. Allowing their families a proper burial is crucial closure that many thought would never come
The last time Daniel Dien Luong saw his father was through the fence of a former army barracks in southern Vietnam more than 30 years ago.
His father was being held prisoner by the Communist government, which had arrested thousands of former military personnel to be "re-educated" after the Vietnam War.
The 13-year-old rode his bike two hours to visit his father every Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. They waved at each other from afar as armed guards stood watch.
One day, the family discovered the barracks empty. It was two months before they received a letter from Luong Van Hoa, about 1,000 miles north of their home in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
In 1977, the letters stopped. The family feared the worst. A death certificate came 10 months later.
Luong, like hundreds of family members of captured South Vietnamese soldiers, has struggled to find out where his father is buried.
Next month, Luong and his mother will travel to Yen Bai province in hopes of recovering his father's remains, 32 years after his death.
They are able to do so with the help of a former South Vietnamese army major who heads a nonprofit called the Returning Casualty that has located and identified unclaimed graves of those who died in the prison camps.
Luong, now 46 and living in Los Angeles, said that finding even a trace of his father would bring closure to his family. In the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, without a proper burial the spirit is lost, forever wandering.
"For my dad, he never had the chance to come home," Luong said. "His spirit could not come with us. There was always this sense of uncertainty".