A dwindling band of brothers

Updated: 2015-08-12 07:44

By Wu Fang(China Daily)

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A dwindling band of brothers

Huang Yueyi, 90, was conscripted by the Kuomintang army in his hometown in Chaohu, Anhui province, when he was 19. He was one of just a handful of Chinese survivors of a battle in Henan province in which 100 men from his unit were killed. A shell landed at Huang's feet during the battle, but failed to explode. Photo by Wu Fang / for China Daily

A dwindling band of brothers

Huang Yueyi and his wife. Their children have left home and now work in large cities, so the elderly parents have to fend for themselves, but the task gets harder every day. Photo by Wu Fang / for China Daily

Since their children headed to the city in search of work, Huang Yueyi and his wife have fended for themselves in a remote village in Xiage, Anhui. Their small house is run-down and barely furnished, and the windows admit very little natural light. It takes Huang more than three minutes to move from one room to another. "Your body fails you when you grow old," he said.

After the war, the veterans put their experiences behind them, slipping back into obscurity and, for some, poverty. Although many live in low-quality housing, they said they are happy. "Our house is not too good, but we are content with our lives. Our sons and daughters are not far away," Wang said.

Now, 70 years on, these old soldiers are in the autumns of their lives, and for many born since the conflict, their exploits and heroism are ancient history.

Sun Mian, the volunteer carer, said that despite their fine war records, many old soldiers - especially those who fought in the ranks of the National Revolutionary Army - live in poor-quality housing and scrape by on low incomes, even though Kuomintang veterans were formally included in the national pension system in 2013.

"What they want is more than just an improvement in their standard of living. Their dearest wish is for national recognition of their heroic deeds," he said.

Xu Wei and Zhou Yutong contributed to this story.

Wu Fang is a freelance writer in Anhui province.