Nguyen Huu Thuong pours tea from a thermos made out of a flare tube and 130 mm artillery shell while his granddaughter studies on a chair fashioned out of metal salvaged from the wreck of an F-105 Thunderchief fighter bomber.
The 81-year-old veteran keeps his memories of the two decades he spent serving in the army by putting former arsenals into domestic use.
They are pots and lunch boxes in the kitchen, coffee filters in the living room, and tables and chairs stacked all around his house in the north central province of Nghe An.
Thuong moved to Hanoi to work in a government train factory in 1957 and was transferred to the army in 1966, at the peak of the Vietnam War.
He worked for a unit of the Transport Ministry tasked with fixing cars damaged by US attacks.
Bombings rocked the city every day and domestic tools were rare, so he decided to make the best of a bad situation and recycle enemy shells and downed aircraft scrap.
In his spare time, he went around collecting debris, grinding, piercing and reassembling scrap into useful tools for his unit.
Extraneous items were sent to his family.
“Those objects are invaluable to me. Each of them is attached to unforgettable memories during my service.
“Every time I see my former comrades, we talk most about these things.”
The object he values most is a table made to memorialize a fellow soldier who died during a bombing raid.
He fashioned it out of a clutch that failed during an American attack, stalling the car he and the comrade were using to escape.
Thuong survived the bombing, but his comrade did not.
Today, the table is used by his granddaughter as a study desk.
Thuong is still making new objects around the house.
His wife Pham Thi Man, 66, said almost everything in the house is made by Thuong.
“My family life is not hard, but he’s still passionate about recycling things.
“Sometimes I tell him that it wouldn’t cost much to just buy these things from the market, but he won't let me.”
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