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Island force keeps 'southern gate' safe

By Zhang Zhihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-07 07:54

Island force keeps 'southern gate' safe

Guards water their division's vegetable garden on Yongxing Island, Sansha.[Photo by ZHANG ZHIHAO/CHINA DAILY]

Resource scarcity

January 26, a few days before the Spring Festival holiday, was a sad day for the young guards at Sansha. As they were carrying crates of vegetables into a freezer chamber, they discovered Dian Dian - a stray white pug with brown spots - lying dead next to the entrance. She had died after biting a rat that had been poisoned.

The guards buried the dog next to the room, poured white sand over the grave to match her fur, erected a metal bar to mark the spot and then bid farewell to the pug. "She followed the regiment during jogs and kept us company during night patrol," said Liu Mengxiang, 19, who arrived in 2015.

"We value everything in Sansha - from a pet dog to green vegetables to clear cellphone signals. We take nothing for granted, because everything is scarce," he said.

According to Yang Xiaolong, 33, the division's deputy director, the "most desired, but least available" resource is "family time".

Yang and his wife, Huang Zili, have been married for seven years and have a 5-year-old son. This year was the first time that the family had celebrated Chinese New Year together, Huang and the boy having traveled to Sansha from their home on Hainan Island.

Yang was not at home for his son's birth, but he knows that "it was a terrifying night".

Huang recalled how she had been at home alone when she went in to labor prematurely: "I struggled step by step to the outskirts of our village and hitched a ride to the nearest hospital on a motorcycle before passing out. All along the way, I cried out my husband's name for help. After reaching the hospital, the doctor was furious and cursed my husband for being an irresponsible ..."

Yang interjected: "Oh please, I have been apologizing ever since", prompting them to burst into peals of laughter.

Yang's work means that the task of raising the boy fell solely on his wife's shoulders.

"I can only return home for a month or two every year," he said. "In the past five years, I have probably spent eight months at most with my son. It's no wonder he doesn't recognize me as his father. I owe them both so much."

Huang laughed. "It's OK. We are used to it by now," she said.

On January 27, Lunar New Year's Eve, Yang, Huang and three other couples made dumplings for the guards. Huang folded her dumplings to resemble gold ingots to cheer up the young guards.

She said she wanted to bring good luck and fortune to everyone. "Since my husband can't leave his post to visit his family, I just had to bring the family to him," she said.

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