As China celebrates the 80th anniversary of the end of the Red Army's Long March, a number of visiting foreign soldiers learned about the history and found determination, sacrifice and faith are the merits of the Chinese Army.
Colonel Olufemi Samson of Nigerian Air Force, who is visiting China on a military exchange program, is deeply touched by late American journalist Edgar Snow's writings about the Long March.
Snow, who trekked with the Red Army through some of the harshest parts of China, wrote in the book "Red Star Over China" that Hannibal's march over the Alps looked like a holiday excursion compared with the Long March.
From October 1934 to October 1936, the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army soldiers left their bases and marched through raging rivers, frigid mountains and arid grasslands to break the siege of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) forces and continue to fight the Japanese aggressors. Some of them marched as far as 12,500 km.
"I think China is what it is today because of the Long March. It is an impressive and encouraging story of patriotism and determination," Samson said.
Of all the battles and difficulties the Red Army went through in the journey, Samson is most impressed by the crossing of Dadu River in southwest China.
The bridge's wooden planks had been removed, therefore soldiers of the Red Army had to crawl over the chains swinging precariously on the torrential river amid enemy fire.
The mission seemed impossible to Samson. Many soldiers were shot and fell into the river, but more pushed on until the bridge and river bank were taken by the Red Army.
"There is a similarity between my experience and the Long March: determination," Samson said. "In that same spirit, the Nigerian military and government are fighting terrorism, fighting Boko Haram (extremist group)."
"I know with this determination, the government will surely defeat terrorism in the country. It is just a matter of time," he added.
Colonel Arvind Kumar Pandey from India is so touched by the story of a fishing hook that he can recount it in detail.
A squad leader volunteered to stay behind to take care of three injured soldiers who could not catch up with the main forces on the march. Stranded in wilderness, they had no food and the squad leader made a fishing hook out of a needle to catch fish from little ponds.
The squad leader who gave all the fish to the injured and ate only grassroots, fell ill and died on his way to look for food. The soldiers kept the hook in his memory and lived to tell his story.
"The Long March spirit is all about sacrifice, the ability to sacrifice, the ability to show the highest degree of determination," Pandey said.
Sacrifice is the essence of the Long March spirit. "That spirit can be seen whenever I see the Chinese soldiers in the campus here (PLA National Defense University). I can see the spirit is still alive," he added.
Foreign soldiers agreed that the Red Army's determination and readiness to sacrifice themselves were rooted in their faith.
Navy Lieutenant Colonel Jorn-Arne Werner Friedrich Niemann from Germany said that in the Long March, people worked together, supported each other and followed their leaders. It was a system of people working together for one goal, believing in what they do.
"Only if you believe, then you can support and work with others together," he added.
Brazilian Air Force Colonel Giancarlo Franca Apuzzo said that it is faith or conviction that pushed the soldiers through hardship, sometimes even deadly obstacles, to accomplish their mission.
"Sometimes in your life, to have a better thing, you have to sacrifice yourself to reach it. So the spirit of Long March is present in our daily lives," he said.
On Oct. 22, 1936, the main forces of the Red Army regrouped in Huining, China's northwest Gansu Province, marking the end of the two-year retreat from China's southeast Jiangxi Province. Some of them marched as far as 12,500 km, breaking through the siege of the Kuomintang forces.