Family members of killed Chinese pilots pay homage to their loved ones at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas, the United States, on May 12, 2019. More than seven decades ago, groups of young Chinese came to the United States for military flight trainings against Japanese invasion. Unfortunately, 52 of them were killed during pilot trainings. Now, for the first time in more than half a century, relatives of those killed Chinese cadets made an arduous journey to El Paso, U.S. state of Texas, for belated reunions with their deceased family members. (Xinhua/Liu Liwei)
EL PASO, the United States, May 14 (Xinhua) -- More than seven decades ago, groups of young Chinese came to the United States for military flight trainings against Japanese invasion. Unfortunately, 52 of them were killed during pilot trainings.
Now, for the first time in more than half a century, relatives of those killed Chinese cadets made an arduous journey to El Paso, U.S. state of Texas, for belated reunions with their deceased family members.
A formal memorial service was held here Monday at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, commemorating those 52 young Chinese pilots buried here.
The U.S. flag near cemetery entrance was at half-mast, and wreaths were placed at tombs to pay respects to these deceased Chinese. Sixteen relatives from eight families attended the memorial service, paying homage to their deceased relatives after 70 years of hard searching.
James F. Porter, director of the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, told Xinhua that it's meaningful to commemorate those who were trained to go to war and gave lives for freedom.
"It's a great thing to have the families come here 70 some years later and get reintroduced to their loved ones and pay homage to them and find their resting place," he said.
Finding family members who deceased over 70 years ago was not an easy task, and it all originated from Ann Lee, relative of one of the killed Chinese cadets and initiator of the event.
When Lee's uncle was killed during pilot training in 1944, the U.S. military then did not conduct a detailed death notification indicating the cause of accident and location of burial.
Despite the historical changes, Lee's family never stopped looking for the resting place of the deceased.
Discovered by chance, the family found the gravesite, along with 51 more tombs of the killed Chinese cadets. Every tomb was engraved the words "Chinese air force," showing they were from China.
To help other families struggling to find their deceased relatives, Lee got in touch with Long Yue Peace Charity Development Center in China.
After a year of unremitting efforts, the organization finally managed to match 24 deceased pilots with their families.
Li Shihua from China's Jiangxi Province is one of the family members who found out the whereabout of his deceased uncle.
"I'm really touched. I finally get to see my uncle," Li told Xinhua. "I'm shouldering the responsibility (on behalf of the family) to pay respects to our uncle, and to let him know that his descendants are leading a good life."
Xia Hengfang, secretary general of Long Yue Peace Charity Development Center, said their mission is "to soothe the war wounds, advocate human care."
"Looking at the descendants coming here to pay respects to their beloved ones, I felt the blood tie is the most precious inheritance in the world," she told Xinhua.
Xia said her organization is committed to finding relatives of other Chinese pilots buried in Fort Bliss.