By Liu Xiangzhi, Shi Qing and Song Fanglong
"This is a photo taken with my 35 veteran fathers when I was a kid. This is Daddy Fang and Daddy Jiang..."
On August 10, 20-year-old Zheng Songfang showed reporters an old photo at her home in Xingguang Village of East China’s Zhejiang Province, while preparing for her upcoming new life in the university. The desk was covered with gifts from her veteran fathers to celebrate her new school life, including two large suitcases, and some living and school supplies.
In 1997, her father Zheng Junjie and 35 local young people got enlisted in the military and were later assigned to a troop unit under the then Hubei Contingent of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force (PAP). Two years of getting along day and night made the 36 young fellows become close comrades-in-arms. Since 1999, they all left the military and went back to their own hometowns to settle down, sedate and happy.
However, in November 2004, Zheng Junjie died a premature death from a traffic accident when his daughter Zheng Songfang was only 4 years old.
Once being comrades-in-arms, brothers forever. The 35 veterans rushed to Zheng Songfang's home at the bad news and decided on the spot, "From today on, Zheng Songfang is our own daughter. We will bring her up together."
From that day on, this “daughter” has been a permanent concern for the 35 veterans. Whenever Zheng Songfang’s family encountered difficulties, they would gather round and come up with solutions. Every year, they offered a sum of money to ensure the carefree life and study of their daughter.
In 2008, when Zheng Songfang reached the school age, a new problem came up. The young girl had to walk 3.5 kilometers four times a day between home and school. Who could send her to school and take her home every day? Finally, her veteran fathers took the responsibility in turn.
During the past 16 years, the 35 veterans cooperated to take care of Zheng Songfang and make up for the lack of paternal love in her growth.
On July 28, 2020, the results of the national college entrance examination were released. Zheng Songfang called her daddies one by one to share the good news, "Daddy, I'm going to college!"
Upon hearing the news, the 35 veterans once again gathered at Zheng Songfang's home to offer advice for college application. For a while, the small house was crowded with people, and everyone therein was elated.
Zheng Songfang has firmly kept the kindness of the 35 veteran fathers in mind. "I have 35 daddies to love me, and there is no regret for my childhood and youth," Zheng Songfang told reporters during the interview, with tears in her eyes.
“It’s not easy for the child to struggle all the way through. When our daughter finishes college and finds a decent job, all of us will feel relieved.” Speaking about this daughter, Li Dongfang, one of the veteran fathers, had tears in his eyes.