A Ranger died last week and this is a great loss for us, the Karen people, and the people of Burma. Di Gay Htoo was a humble, brave, dedicated and selfless young Karen leader. He died of a sudden fever while on a mission with the Karen resistance. After serving as a Free Burma Ranger relief team leader, Di Gay Htoo was called by the pro-democracy resistance to serve as an officer in the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
|Di Gay Htoo
His honesty, rapport with villagers, compassion, and sense of duty made him the outstanding young officer of the KNLA. On his last mission he was safeguarding families in the line of a threatened Burma Army attack.
Di Gay Htoo was the first Free Burma Ranger team leader from the northern Karen State. He was the honor graduate of the first FBR training in 2001, and his team was the best team of that class. He set a standard of excellence both in training and on relief missions that has not been surpassed.
I first met Di Gay Htoo in 1996 at a leadership training for emergent leaders in central Karen State. I met him next in 1998 on a relief mission to the northern Karen State at the end of the 1997-1998 offensive. Arriving in the Karen State, a Karen soldier told me, “The way you will go tomorrow is very dangerous and the enemy is close.” Then a young Karen man approached me and said, “Hello, my name is Di Gay Htoo, you and your wife taught me in 1996 and now I am your guide and will be with you on this mission. Tomorrow is very dangerous and anything can happen in one minute. Maybe tomorrow we will be dead, but if so, we will die together- I will be with you.”
I was blessed to realize that this man with me was the grandson of the Di Gay who led the Karen resistance against Japan alongside a British officer named Hugh Seagrim (called ‘Grandfather Longlegs’ by the Karen). These two men organized the Karen who fought with the Allies and helped to defeat the Japanese in Burma. Di Gay and Grandfather Longlegs have always been heroes to me. To have Di Gay’s grandson as my guide was an honor and blessing. As we climbed the mountains between Burma Army lines the next day, he told me words I will never forget. “Thank you for coming here to help us and to tell our story. But when you tell the story of my people, please do not just talk about all the bad things that happen to us and our suffering by the Burma Army. Please tell the world about the good things about my people, their faith in God and their love. Of course we need help. We are too weak to make the change in Burma by ourselves. But do tell about what my people do, how they are strong, still free and working together to make our nation better.”
This week Di Gay Htoo died as he helped to prepare his people for the threat of renewed attacks. He died doing his duty and inspires all of us to do ours.
To Di Gay Htoo I say, “Thank you Di Gay Htoo, for your love, example, humility and singleness of purpose. The God you served loves you and we are sorry for ourselves for our loss but happy for you that you lived well and that you are now in a new life. We will join you one day. Until that day, we will cherish your memory, and love and comfort your family. We will be strong like you and tell the world about how wonderful your people are.”
Our family and all the FBR loves you, misses you and thanks God for you,
With love and gratitude, The Free Burma Rangers