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ASSOCIATION OF MOTHERS OF SOLDIERS (Hội Mẹ Chiến Sĩ)

The first chapter of this association appeared in June 1947 in Ha Tinh province, when the United Women’s Association for Central Vietnam created it (Hoi Lien Hiep Phu Nu Trung Bo). The association’s main goal was to look after soldiers wounded in battle and to tend to the graves and to the memory of fallen soldiers and martyrs (Nguoi Hy Sinh) from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh personally thanked the work of the Mothers’ Association in tending to and feeding the wounded soldiers and burying the war dead. This was especially the case since the government had little financial means to subsidize the care and feeding of the increasing number of wounded and disabled. The mothers association visited the families of fallen soldiers “in order to comfort them and show them the extent of the state and party’s solicitude”. Mothers wrote letters to soldiers and adopted them when they passed through villages. In exchange for this state-sponsored consolation, families were expected to recognize the generosity of the party and continue their loyalty to it. As Ngo Van Chieu described this association in his memoirs, the mothers of soldiers were usually elderly women. Once a mother adopted either a soldier or a cadre, the whole family was obligated to protect the “adopted soldier”. This could mean tending to his or her wounds. It could also mean protecting him from enemy detection, by making him a member of the family with complete documentation and alibis. These protecting families organized around the “mother” almost always had one or more sons or relatives serving in the DRV army. They were therefore reliable, with the idea being that this “mother of soldiers” association network was taking care of their own loved ones in time of need. This ingenious system created remarkably sure connections for the army and state and served to integrate a wider segment of the population into the DRV’s emerging national community. See also EXPERIENCE OF WAR; MARTYR; MYTH OF WAR; PENSION, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM.