Though a wartime in jury badly impaired his hearing, Zhang Yuhua said he heard "every bit" of the 60-gun salute at Beijing's downtown Tian'anmen Square Saturday morning.
"I have to enjoy every bit of it for my comrades-in-arms, especially those who died during the war against Japanese aggression," the veteran said, choking back his tears.
"Many of them still come to me in my dreams -- I don't remember all their names, but they're always the way they were: young and energetic."
Zhang is one of the 60 veterans to attend Saturday's ceremony commemorating the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-fascist War.
Following a group of top Chinese leaders, the veterans supported each other up the stairs to the Monument to the People's Heroes, erected in memory of China's wartime heroes, for a flower wreath-laying ceremony.
For the first time in 60 years, they were so close to their comrades-in-arms, dead and alive.
"We fought for the dignity of our motherland. This is the supreme honor she has given us," said veteran Shi Tongde as he gazed at the gilded characters on the monument, an inscription by late Chairman Mao Zedong which reads "The People's Heroes Are Immortal."
Zhang Lulin silently counted the 60-gun salute. His father, late Kuomintang General Zhang Xueliang, launched the "Xi'an Incident" on Dec. 12, 1936.
"My father and many others shed blood and even sacrificed their own lives to change China's history," he said.
In the Xi'an Incident, General Zhang and General Yang Hucheng arrested Chiang Kai-shek and forced him to end the civil war and organize coordinated resistance with the Communist forces against Japanese invading troops. The incident is therefore regarded as having given a great boost to the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
At the end of the 60-gun salute, General Yang's daughter Yang Zhengying said she felt "greatly relieved." Her parents were killed by the Kuomintang when she was merely two years old.
"I know well enough the peace we enjoy today was the sole aspiration of my father and his peers," she said.
The salute was also given to international personages who helped China fight its war.
"They were all driven by humanism and internationalism. They're heroes of the world," said Lou Glist, a former Flying Tigers Ace pilot.
Sixty years ago, Glist celebrated his first wedding anniversaryalone in China, half a world away from his wife. Today, the coupleare in China together to commemorate the country's victory, as well as 61 years of their married life.
Glist said he has compiled his wartime letters he wrote to his wife into a book, which will be published in China soon. It's a true account of China's war against Japanese aggression and of the Glist family's longing for peace, he said.
At least 6,000 people from all walks of life were present at the grand ceremony, including youngsters who are trying to trace that part of history as much as they can.
"We couldn't have enjoyed the happy life today if not for the courageous fight of those martyrs," said Shi Runqian, a second-year student at Beijing Yuying Middle School.
"We hope the Japanese will not repeat their mistakes of the past. After all, the war did them no good either," said Zhang Liwen, an environmental science major at Peking University.
China's war of resistance against the Japanese aggressors lasted from 1931 to 1945, and altogether 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians lost their lives or got injured.
(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2005)