Former Chinese navy sailor looks after parents of friend who ‘died a hero’
- When his shipmate died during a rescue in 1997, Liao Liangkai made a promise to himself to ‘do something he would have wanted’
Every November, Liao Liangkai goes on a 3,000km pilgrimage from Sichuan province in southwest China to Jilin in the northeast.
The 44-year-old former Chinese navy sailor has been visiting the province since 1999, two years after his friend and shipmate died while he was rescuing a civilian.
Liu Jiqiang was just 19 when he made that ultimate sacrifice.
“He died a hero,” Liao told state broadcaster CCTV.
“Afterwards, I found myself constantly thinking about how I could help to take care of his parents, how to do something he would have wanted.”
Liao decided to write to Liu’s parents, telling them he had been their son’s shipmate and asking about their welfare, according to the report.
The couple, Liu Yinzhi and Liang Guiru, were surprised to hear from the young man, but they wrote back and soon they were in regular contact.
Liao made a promise to himself that he would keep an eye on them. He first travelled to the couple’s home in Jilin in 1999 – saluting them when he arrived in their village. They talked late into the night, and afterwards Liao continued to call and write to his friend’s parents to check on them, according to the report.
He took his girlfriend, Zhao Jing, to meet them in 2003, and when they married the next year they sent them a blanket as a wedding gift. When his wife gave birth, they sent handmade baby clothes and a blanket.
Liao told the state broadcaster that he thought of the couple a lot, as if they were his own parents, and they treated him like a son.
He left the navy in 2006 and opened a photo printing shop in Chengdu. A few years later, when the family’s financial situation had improved, Liao asked the couple if they would like to come and live with them but since Liang’s health was deteriorating, they were reluctant to make the move. She died last year, and now Liao visits her grave when he goes to the village.
This year the father, Liu Yinzhi, 67, travelled to Chengdu to spend the Lunar New Year holiday with Liao’s parents and their family.
“It’s all because of Liao that I’ve had the courage to continue living,” said Liu Yinzhi.