Narrated by Zhang Minghong
I walked into the studio of the Beijing TV on October 30, 2019 and participated in the recording of a TV program to talk about my life after retirement from the Chinese military over 30 years ago.
In fact, I am a very ordinary Chinese veteran. I have been retired from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) for nearly 30 years and have been earning a living by loading and unloading and riding a tricycle in Ya'an, a city in the western part of China’s Sichuan Province. During this time, I haven't done anything incredible. I think the reason why the TV station invited me to participate in the show has to do with the belief that I have persisted for so many years. That is, I always remember that I am a veteran. No matter what you do for a living, it is always graceful as long as you work hard.
In 1991, I retired and returned home after serving in the military for two years. As the saying goes, it is difficult to make a living with soil. So, I thought about going out to work and earn some money. But my education level is not high, and I don't have any skills or specialties.
I tried to carry steel bars in construction sites. But I am short and thin and the workers there said that I could not do this job. When I saw someone riding a tricycle on the street, I thought I can do this job. At the end of the month when I retired, I took the money I borrowed from my relatives and friends and bought my first tricycle. This is how I started my job.
At first, I felt that riding a tricycle was a bit embarrassing. Especially compared to those comrade-in-arms and acquaintances who have good jobs or have a better family background. When I met them on the street, I pretended not to hear them and quickly accelerated to pedal away with my head down.
After a long time, I thought, can pride support my family? Work maybe hard and dirty, but there is no distinction between noble and humble jobs. My capability is limited. Every penny I earn by pedaling a tricycle is hard-earned and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
To give my family a good life, I go out early and return home late every day. Sometimes, I even work all night. I laid in my tricycle and squinted for a while if I felt sleepy at night. Sometimes I dreamed of military training, but when I opened my eyes, I found myself still on the deserted street at night.
I always miss my time as a soldier. Since I could no longer return to the fiery barracks, I simply used the force of the soldier to work hard and live my life to the fullest after retirement. With this kind of thinking, my days of riding a tricycle started to have a purpose. I smile all day long although the work is very bitter and tiring.
Later, more people started riding tricycles, and the passenger-carrying business was gradually shrinking. So, I found another job: help people load and unload cargo in addition to tricycle riding. It was tiring at first. The cargo being loaded and unloaded included more than 50 kilograms of rapeseed and dirty and heavy bagged cement. Sometimes I did not even have the strength to eat after work. But I still clenched my teeth and persisted. I told myself that although these tasks were tiring, I would get an energy refresh.
I pedaled to pick my son up every day after he started to go to school. Seeing that some parents drove their children to school, my son asked me, "Dad, why did they come in a car, and you came on a tricycle?" I told him that no matter a car or a tricycle, a father always loves his children equally. We could not afford a car now. If you were not satisfied, you should study hard and strive for a better life in the future.
My wife and I worked hard and saved on food and expense. As a result, we intermittently built a new house for our family after three years. Our son also did not fail us. After graduating from college, he received an offer from a TV station. Not long ago, he held a grand wedding in our hometown. When he and his wife served us tea at the wedding, my wife cried. I know that those were tears of happiness. It is said that life is not easy, and finally, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In fact, while working hard for my family, I still have a knot in heart—I always feel that my life as a soldier is not enough. So, I registered for the reserve forces. As long as I am notified, I would immediately put down my work and participate in the training on time even if it would delay making money. Over the years, I have participated in the "Tianfu Mission-2014" military exercise, the "Protection of Mother River" and other activities. That is not only because I like to wear camouflage uniform again, but also because I am a veteran. I like to do something that can contribute to the construction of my motherland.
Someone told me that you are almost 50 years old, and you were not given any job. You were doing manual work after you retired so your service was in vain. I told him that being a soldier is an obligation, and I cannot ask my country and the government to take care of me because I have been a soldier for two years. There are tens of thousands of jobs in the world. Someone has to do manual work. I don’t feel embarrassed because I work hard and support my family by my own hands!