Grand parade celebrates 35th anniversary of reunification

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Students wave flags during a parade in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday

As Vietnam celebrated the 35th anniversary of national reunification, Ho Chi Minh City marked the day with a grand military parade, and leaders recalled the sacrifices made to achieve the historic victory over imperialist forces.

On April 30, 1975, Saigon, the now Ho Chi Minh City, witnessed the complete triumph of the liberation forces over the US aggressors when tanks of the Liberation Army crashed through the gates of the former Presidential Palace and ousted the US-backed South Vietnam government.

Thirty-five years later, the city marked victory day with parades of the armed force, war veterans, workers, farmers, professionals, young people and children, women, businesspeople, and representatives of other forces.

Some 50,000 people, many waving Vietnamese flags, crowded the parade route.

President Nguyen Minh Triet was joined at the parade by leaders and dignitaries from Cuba, Russia, Cambodia and Laos.

In the re-enactment of the war's end, a tank replica rolled by the former Reunification Boulevard, later renamed Le Duan after the former Party General Secretary, towards the former presidential palace. It was saluted and cheered all the way by the crowd.

The parade brought back vivid memories for Do Thi Thanh Thuy, 49, who watched the tanks roll by her home on April 30, 1975, when she was a junior high student. She and her neighbors on the outskirts of the city had run into the streets to cheer.

"When I saw those tanks, I felt so happy," Thuy, who Friday carried a hammer and a sickle flag, told the AP news agency. "The South had been liberated, the country was united, and the war was over."

In his speech at the celebration, Secretary of the Municipal Party Committee Le Thanh Hai said, "Time will go by, but our victory in the fight against the US aggressors will live forever as one of the most glorious pages in our history and it stands as a shining symbol of the nation's revolutionary heroism and patriotism of the people.

"It figures as one of the most outstanding events of the 20th century, bearing profound international significance," he said

The Party secretary of the country's biggest economic and financial hub went on to say that since the Great Spring Victory, the people of Ho Chi Minh City have firmly upheld the revolutionary spirit and solidarity to develop the city.

With its contribution of 20 percent to the nation's GDP and 30 percent to the state budget, the city has confirmed its role as a driving force behind the development of the national economy.

President Nguyen Minh Triet presented the Gold Star Order to Ho Chi Minh City. This is the second time the city has received the State's highest distinction.

Nguyen Huu Nguyen, a war veteran, said, "Every April 30, we [veterans] sit together to recall the great victory days and talk about the current life.

"This year, Ho Chi Minh City holds the celebration with grand activities. It is confident of a new development path.

"In general, residents' lives have been improved day by day. But there are still some people who struggle to earn their daily living. Some children can't go to school.

"On every celebration, we should raise the awareness of what our nation had to do to get the reunifiation so that young people and other residents treasure it. So, they will be ready to protect what we have now and help the country develop further."

At 9 p.m. on Friday, 15-minute fireworks were set off in the country's major cities and localities to mark the historic day.

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