Dad leaves out scary parts from stories of high seas

Updated: 2012-12-29 01:34

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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Whenever he was asked by his 5-year-old son, "Is it dangerous for you to fight against pirates?" Lei Sheng, a pilot who has been involved in escort duty three times, leaves the perilous parts out of the story.

"It is not necessary to worry my family. I came back safe and sound every time, isn't that good enough?" said Lei, 34, from China's South Sea Fleet.

The People's Liberation Army navy has sent 13 escort fleets to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters since 2008, and Lei has been part of the second, fourth and ninth missions.

"I am proud of having accomplished these missions and realizing my teenage dream of having such a sacred career, even though I kept the difficulties to myself all these years," he said.

Attracted by an army conscription poster, Lei changed his major from art and literature to science during his last year of senior high school in order to qualify for a military institute. In 1997, he enrolled in the Naval Flying Academy.

When he joined the South Sea Fleet after graduating in 2001, Lei, like most of the new recruits, could not get used to the shaking warships. "My stomach felt so terrible that I had to lie in bed all day long."

But two months later, he had overcome his seasickness.

Over the past decade, he has been trained to deal with any threat in a calm and professional way.

"I often flew over batches of pirates to inspect or warn them during escort duty. If they had shot at me, I could not have stopped them," said Lei.

The largest group of pirates Lei met consisted of about 130 vessels of all sizes.

"When I am in the helicopter, I never think of danger. I just think of my responsibility."

But his heavy task took up more and more of the time Lei should have spent with his family, especially his little boy, who has become closer to his mother than his father.

"Sometimes my son refuses to go outside for fun with me if he can stay with his mother," he said, disappointed.

Lei was also sorry, and grateful, to his retired parents, who always agreed to come from Central China's Henan province to South China's Hainan province to look after their grandson when he needed help.

"Their support means a lot to me," Lei said in a lighter voice. "And the good news now is that it has become much more convenient to call and communicate with the family during the escort."

"I've never regretted my career choice, and it is necessary to present the Chinese navy's image as an international force to the world," he added. "I will certainly join more escort missions in the future."

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