Wang Dingguo, a Red Army veteran who had completed the Long March, died of illness at the age of 107 on Tuesday, leaving the world with one less survivor of the epic military expedition who knew so well about the struggle, and more importantly, the power of determination and faith.
The Long March, which was carried out by the Red Army and led by the Communist Party of China to combat the Kuomintang regime, covered over 12,500 kilometers from October 1934 to October 1936.
"There are only less than 100 Red Army soldiers who took part in the Long March that are still alive. With Wang's passing, there is now one less person among them," said Xue Gang, a history consultant of the Chinese Martyrs Glorification Promotion Association. "And the only time people hear about them is when their obituaries are published. Actually, their stories are all truly inspirational and must be preserved when we still can."
Wang from Sichuan Province was believed to be the oldest Red Army woman veteran before she died in Beijing. She joined the Red Army and the Party when she was 20, five years after she was sold to a local man to be his wife.
When Wang was 21, she started the Long March with the Fourth Red Army Front. She was with the army's theatrical troupe that aimed to lift the troops' spirit. She was in charge of props and makeup and served as a fighter during battles. The troupe had to march ahead of the troops and caught up with them after they passed, which means she had to take the same route twice.
The Red Army passed through some of the most difficult terrain with limited supplies during the Long March. It was ended when the three Red Army fronts of more than 30,000 troops met in Huining, Gansu Province, in October 1936. The army was engaged in more than 380 battles during the process.
One of Wang's toes fell off right before her eyes due to frostbite when climbing a snow mountain. Wang was also shot twice in her right leg during battles. None of the life-threatening circumstances foiled Wang's determination to complete the Long March and seal the ultimate victory.
She could still remember moments when the troops would light up the torches as night came, she said during an interview in 2016. "The line of torches looked like a long dragon with flames. They lit up the winding roads in darkness. For me, I saw hope," she said.
Xue said the Red Army veterans' stories during the Long March are particularly inspirational for young people. "People joined the Red Army for different reasons. Many of them were very young and just wanted to make a living. Through the hardship of the Long March, they gradually found their purpose in life and grew to be real heroes."
He urged the country to set up a database of Red Army veterans and record their stories so the stories wouldn't be lost.
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