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Rescue diary in Sichuan
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By Entertainment Troop soldier Chen Jianfei,

(http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5146139801009c5m.html 19:42:18, May 14, 2008)

I was finally approved for volunteer service in Chengdu with the female soldiers of the Entertainment (Ents) Troop. We received training in emergency rescue skills in northeast China. About 80 of us – one squad of Ents Troop led by myself and a special army unit including the Chief of Staff and the Regiment Commander – arrived at Chengdu Shuangliu airport on the Southwest Military Region's battle plane.

I was in charge of staff communication services, reporting and salvage work. The Ents Troop handled the emergency rescue of casualties. We arrived at the first rescue site under the charge of the Red Cross Rescue Service of Northeast China along with the Chengdu Rescue Army, all carrying the badge of the Red Cross. We were greeted with relief by the local people in the quake-hit area.

We camped at Tianfu Square, the busiest area. The square was dampened by rain drizzling from a gloomy sky as a mass of people gathered around. Some volunteers brought a big tent as temporary accommodation for the weak and the old. Many others were preparing food and water in case of aftershocks. The whole square resembled a busy market.

In the evening, our troop was ordered into a rescue operation. The Chengdu citizens were constantly being frightened by aftershocks, and wireless facilities had gone down. The ambulance could barely move as the roads were blocked by gatherings of citizens. Bloodstained victims carried by the ambulance caused heartache to the people along the way.

I took some female solders with me to attend to children who had lost their parents, and to the old and the weak. Among the last group rescued was a group of children aged from 4 to 6 – now homeless orphans.

There was this boy, about 5 years old, watching me helping the victims in the children's aid room. He was very quiet, though spattered with blood. Sometimes Xiao Chuan, as we called him, even came forward to help me.

"Uncle Soldier, is my mom dead?"

"No, Xiao Chun, your mom will be ok. She is…probably helping your other little friends."

I did not want to lie to him, but had no other explanation to offer.

"Uncle, why has my father not opened his eyes yet? Will he die as well? Will I die too?"

I was overcome with sadness at his questions. I knew fine well that his parents were both dead and that he was already an orphan, but how could I say it to him? I feigned a smile and said:

"Xiao Chun, it will be ok, come and get an injection, it doesn't hurt."

Xiao Chun rubbed his little hand, and said:

"Uncle, I'll be ok; it won't hurt, will it?"

I could not hold back my tears. I was too upset to carry out the injection.

Xiao Chun helped me wipe away the tears and said:

"Uncle, give me the injection, I can do it."

"Xiao Chun, go back to your seat and wait for the girls to take care of you, ok?"

The girls, like me, were also in tears. I felt so sad. Every one of these children here were homeless orphans. I too came from an orphanage. I am 24, single, and an orphan too.

I tried to recover my composure, as the only male soldier in the room. But still the tears flowed. Right then, another group of victims arrived. The room was filled with cries of pain. Its sirens wailing, an ambulance was racing through the streets of Chengdu with further victims.

I looked deep within myself in search of the strength to carry on with my duties and responsibilities as a soldier.

(China.org.cn May 17, 2008)

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