Friday, September 02, 2016

A revisit to Kinmen

Accompanied by his family, a gray-headed veteran walks tremblingly in a military cemetery trying to find a tombstone engraved with a name he knew long long time ago. Isn’t it the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan? Only this is a real lifetime story instead of a fictitious movie plot.

The smoke of gunpowder has dispersed, but to Lin De-lu, a blind old farmer from Meishan, Jiayi never forgets the 823 Artillery Bombardment of 1958, also called the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, the clash between mainland China and Taiwan over a group of tiny islands called Kinmen, located just off the southeastern coast of mainland China.

September 2, 1958, a date Lin memorizes perpetually. Then 27, and only thirty days to his discharge of compulsory military service, as a private of the 123rd Regiment, 41st Infantry Division, one of the units deployed to defend Kinmen, he was ordered to help fortify a battery. Suddenly a shell exploded nearby. When he woke up, he found himself both eyes blind and left ear deft, and Lt. Fu Kuo-fang, his platoon leader, whom he loved and respected, was killed.

Lin was airlifted back to Taiwan for medical care and discharged. Returning home, Lin farmed hard with the help of his wife to support his family of eight. For fifty-eight year, the image of Lt. Fu has been lingering in his mind. He remembers the time they served together and how the officer from Hunan province of mainland China took good care of him and other Taiwanese conscripts. He hoped that one day he gets to go back to Kinmen to visit his beloved superior officer.

As predestined by fate, Wang Chun-lin, a Chinese professor of National Chung Cheng University who has listened to Lin’s story since she was a kid, planned to write a book about him. She then asked Kinmen Defense Command (KDC) for help when she did a field trip for her book in April this year to locate where Lt. Fu was buried. By the vague pronunciation of the name provided by Lin the military found and told Professor Wang where Lt. Fu was buried. The good professor immediately told Lin about the news.

By the arrangement of KDC, Lin came to Kinmen with his family. Trying very hard to stand up from a wheelchair pushed by his family, Lin, now 85, hunchbacked his body and touched the gravestone of Lt. Fu Kuo-fang murmuring, “Lieutenant, I’m here to see you.”

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