As white doves flew across a bright sky and over a tranquil lake next to the wall, Chen Hong never felt a stronger connection with her grandmother.
Chen is the granddaughter of Zhao Yiman, the legendary heroine who fought in China's northeast and was captured and executed by Japanese occupation forces. She joined more than 200 World War II veterans and their family members from 22 countries in a ceremony on Friday afternoon commemorating the "60th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War."
The ceremony featured the unveiling of a wall 60 meters long and 60 steps high in Beijing's Chaoyang Park.
The wall, officially known as the Beijing Peace Monument, was the brainchild of Chinese and American veteran groups and funded from private donations worldwide.
"Our forefathers gave their lives for peace and freedom. Our generation has the responsibility to treasure what we have today," Chen said,
Some words inscribed on the wall in Chinese, English, Russian, French and Spanish read: "Yesterday we served in the armed forces. We are survivors. Tomorrow, for our children, grandchildren, and for coming generations, we express our hope: Love life and cherish peace."
David N. Ozuna, another participant in the ceremony, was 23 years old in 1944-45 when he flew the Hump 25 times. He recalled the dangerous missions flying supplies to Kunming amidst thunderstorms and occasional Japanese fighter planes.
"It's wonderful that China remembers us. Not a lot of students in the United States are taught about the Hump," he said.
When asked about any lessons from his war experience, he thought for a moment and said: "War is a lousy way to settle differences. We should never fight another one."
Among the large crowd, two elderly participants stood out in uniforms of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Force, their old army flag unfurled behind them. One of them, 82-year-old Li Min, was enthusiastically greeting old comrades and their children.
"Peace does not come cheap," she said, when asked about her feelings about the war. "It took 35 million Chinese lives. We should cherish it."
Akie Kato was a teenager during the war. She represented Japanese veterans when she signed the Beijing Peace Declaration on Friday. Her husband was captured by Chinese forces in 1940 and later joined an anti-war alliance organized by Japanese, fighting on the Chinese side in 1945 and even helping the People's Liberation Army in liberating the Northeast.
"Peace and justice are what we fought for," she said. "The war caused catastrophe to both the Chinese and Japanese peoples. The value of peace is immeasurable."
(China Daily September 3, 2005)