BEIJING, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- "Step back and leave it to me," Du Fuguo, a demining soldier of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), told a fellow soldier when working in a minefield in the border area of southwest China's Yunnan in October 2018. That move, which saved his partner from imminent danger, pushed him into a tremendous abyss.
It was a suspicious unexploded grenade. Du, who was 27 years old at the time, stepped forward to examine it when it suddenly exploded. At that moment, Du swiftly leaned his body to protect his partner, who was left with only bruises. However, Du was severely injured, losing his eyes and arms in the explosion.
Du had two chances to choose not to be a demining soldier during his military service starting 2010, but he volunteered to work on the frontline clearing mines.
He revealed why he made the choice in his letter of application for mine clearance operations in 2015 -- "I was reflecting on what kind of life is truly meaningful and valuable, and the only gauge is what has been done for the country."
"I feel like it is my destiny to carry out this mission and there was a voice calling me to clear the mines," he wrote.
To win the "entrance admission" to the minefield, Du worked hard in his training and passed relevant tests with outstanding performance. Since then, he joined over 400 fellow soldiers and started the mine-sweeping work in border areas of Yunnan, where over 100 minefields were located.
While various equipment has been developed for mine clearance, manual demining is still believed to be the most effective way.
Over the following three years, Du had entered minefields over 1,000 times, defusing more than 2,400 mines and bombs and handling over 20 cases of dangerous emergencies.
Du was sent to the hospital after the explosion and underwent five major surgeries in three days. The first request after he regained consciousness was "Cure my wounds quickly! I have to go back to clear mines."
After learning about his own state of injury, Du sunk into silence for a while. However, with a slightly trembling voice, he told his officers and doctors: "Don't worry, I'll be strong."
With his residual arms, Du learned to dress, wash and feed himself. With the help of his fellow soldiers, he also resumed running exercises.
In 2019, Du was awarded the title "role model of our times."
Last week, he was awarded the August 1 Medal ahead of the 95th anniversary of the founding of the PLA, which falls on Monday.
Back in Yunnan, the minefield where Du shed his blood has been confirmed by his team members to be safe after mine-sweeping operations and was handed over to local farmers. Today, tea plants are growing exuberantly on this land. ■