Highly decorated war veteran kept his glory from public for decades

By Dong Feng Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/6 15:43:40

Zhang Fuqing gives a solemn military salute. Photo: Courtesy of Tang Jun

Zhang Fuqing's many certificates and medals of honor had never been unveiled until 62 years later.  A yellowing meritorious service certificate shows that he destroyed four enemy pillboxes and served as a commando many times during the War of Liberation (1946-49). 

This 95-year-old war veteran sealed up years of memories and did not mention any of the details to his offspring until the local veterans' affairs bureau began collecting ex-servicemen's information.  

He enlisted in the People's Liberation Army in March 1948. More than 70 years later, he was honored as a national role model by the Central Spiritual Civilization Development Steering Commission on September 5.

Recognizing a hero 

On December 3, 2018, Zhang Jianquan, Zhang Fuqing's younger son, carefully carried a parcel to the Public Security Bureau in Laifeng county, Central China's Hubei Province. It was a parcel he considered a treasure. 

At that time, the county level bureau was collecting information on all its veterans, as required by a directive from the Ministry of Veterans Affairs in August 2018.

"It was 5:20 pm and I was wrapping up my day. When the shining medals were taken out, I was drawn to them," Nie Haibo, a staff member working on information collection for retired military personnel in the county, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency. 

Zhang turned out to be a soldier in the Northwest Field Army during the War of Liberation, and had been honored as a "combat hero" twice. 

"All the medals had been kept in an envelope. I figured that as it had not been taken out, my generation has not seen these items before. I was seeing it all for the first time," Zhang Jianquan told the Global Times. 

Nie was so excited to see the documents and medals and said, "It didn't occur to me that there could be such a hero in our county," according to the Xinhua report. 

"War is cruel and it's difficult for my father to relive the battles he has fought in. Once he thinks of others' sacrifice, his eyes well up with tears," Zhang Jianquan said. 

Zhang Fuqing's meritorious service certificates Photo: Courtesy of Tang Jun

Ready to sacrifice

Zhang has fought in many battles as a commando and a company leader. 

"He was the eighth company commander in the squad one night when three battalion commanders were killed," his son said. 

"In the Yongfeng battle, Zhang led an assault group and took over the town overnight, taking over two enemy blockhouses, disarming two machine guns, and beating back several rounds of enemy attacks until dawn. Our army entered the township and eliminated the enemy," said the service certificate for Zhang in November 1948.

He kept the documents to himself, "as I don't want to let my children know and show off about it," Zhang told CCTV in May. 

"Those who fought side by side with me have all sacrificed their lives for our country and people, they should have much more honor than me. How can I call myself a hero?" he said. 

Zhang hesitated when the information collection work began across the country. "But if I don't submit my veteran information, that would be disloyal," he recalled. 

Old photos from years ago framed and hung on the wall in Zhang Fuqing's living room Photo: Courtesy of Tang Jun

Retirement from army

At the beginning of 1955, Zhang, then a company officer, was facing a turning point in his career. When he learned that conditions at Enshi, Hubei were hard and it was in urgent need of leadership, he chose to take up a position there.

Laifeng county, a small town in a mountainous area, is located at the junction of Hubei and Hunan provinces and Chongqing Municipality. 

When Zhang settled here, he put away all those honors he gained for more than 60 years. 

In 1981, Zhang was transferred to the China Construction Bank's branch in Laifeng as vice president. 

"To make sure the loans could be repaid, Zhang lived in one of the factories to offer his help with production and sales. Those loans under his supervision have all been repaid," Li said.

The military medals awarded to Zhang Fuqing Photo: Courtesy of Tang Jun

By the time Zhang retired from the bank in 1984, the branch had built its own office and dormitory for staff. The bank staff increased to 10 people. All of Zhang's colleagues were impressed with his leadership, Li said.

After retiring from his position at the bank, Zhang underwent eye surgery. 

Before the operation, Li Ganlin, the president of Laifeng branch of the China Construction Bank, specifically told Zhang to get his medical expenses reimbursed in full, adding that he was entitled to select the best artificial lens for his surgery. 

Instead, Zhang chose the cheapest, Zhang Jianquan told the Global Times. 

"He just refuses to put on those new clothes we bought for him, all of them are folded away and stored in a closet," Zhang Jianquan said. 

In 2012, Zhang was advised to have his left leg amputated due to a fever he had for days. He was then 88 years old. 

"We all thought that grandpa would sit in a wheelchair all the time, but he insisted on trying a prosthetic limb and wanted to stand up on his own," Zhang Ran, Zhang Fuqing's granddaughter, told the Global Times. 

"Dad was trying to stand up again so that he would not be a burden to us, so that we could contribute more without worrying about him or spending time taking care of him," Zhang Jianquan said.
Newspaper headline: Heroic secrets

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