China Honors Fallen Moore Flying Tiger
A fallen hero from Moore County was honored once again, as he has been for more than 60 years, by residents in a faraway part of China.
Guidong County leaders held a ceremony at a monument on San-Tai Mountain that was dedicated last year to the memory of Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch, a Flying Tiger from High Falls. Upchurch lost his life when shot down in aerial combat over the mountainous terrain of southern Hunan Province during World War II.
Villagers buried the unknown soldier, known only as "American Pilot" for many years, with solemn pomp according to ancient tradition below a Ming Dynasty tower on that mountain. Every year thereafter, they honored him on China's traditional Tomb Sweeping Day in April.
After DNA identified him and his remains were returned for reburial at High Falls United Methodist Church in the family plot, Guidong proposed a sister-county covenant with Moore and a sister-state agreement between Hunan and North Carolina.
Last year, state Sen. Harris Blake, of Pinehurst, led a delegation of Upchurch family members and local leaders to a dedication of the Upchurch monument. Many business leaders and other delegations have visited Moore County since.
On Tomb Sweeping Day this year, flowers were again laid at the monument to honor a foreigner who gave his life to help China fight invaders. Yunqiu Li, of Hunan Province, sent pictures and wrote Blake.
"It is nearly half a year since we met last time, and I miss you so much," Li wrote. "The people in Guidong County miss you deeply, too. On the Tomb Sweeping Day, we have held a solemn memorial ceremony for Robert Hoyle Upchurch."
Shaoxiong Yuan, Zhou Wang, secretary of CPC's Community in Guidong County, and Luchun He, head county commissioner, hosted the ceremony. Other important leaders in Guidong County participated in this activity, standing in reverent silence as Red Army soldiers laid red and yellow long-stemmed flowers at the foot of the granite cross that bears Upchurch's name in Chinese and English.
"We also wanted to commemorate the 30th year anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and China through this solemn ceremony," Li wrote.
Last November, the county manager and Guidong's vice mayor signed a sister-county agreement at a breakfast meeting at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst. Its fourfold purposes are economic, educational, social and cultural exchanges between the two counties.
Blake is working with state leaders across party lines in a nonpartisan effort to bring about a sister state connection with Hunan Province that would move the state to the forefront and give North Carolina business and economic advantages dealing with China.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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