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First female paratrooper donates savings to hometown

Published on 09/29 2018  Source: China Daily


Ma Xu, China's first female paratrooper and a doctor for the People's Liberation Army in the 1940s, donated her life savings of 10 million yuan ($1.45 million) earlier this month to her hometown, Mulan county, in Heilongjiang province. 

Ma was born into a doctor's family in 1933 and joined the PLA as a doctor herself in 1947. 

In 1961, she applied to become a paratrooper when a new airborne branch of the PLA was founded in the unit in which she worked. However, she failed to get permission. She was not strong enough, and female paratroopers were unheard of. 

"I was only 1.53 meters high and weighed less than 37.5 kg at that time - not up to the physical standard for a paratrooper," Ma said. "But I was determined to take part. I wanted to become a true paratrooper." 

She began to learn parachuting skills secretly during others' training and would practice in the moonlight. She even wrote a letter in blood to express her determination. 

"I hope my request can be approved. I promise to be a qualified paratrooper," she said in the letter. 

After proving she could jump as well as others, she was accepted. 

Ma's first jump was in 1962. She made more than 140 jumps between then and 1984, when she was 51 years old. 

She set national records as the oldest enlisted woman to do a parachute jump, as well as the female paratrooper who made the most jumps. 

During the process, she found that lots of paratroopers suffered ankle injuries when they landed because of the force of impact. She began to research the problem with the help of her husband Yan Xueyong, who was also a military doctor. 

After reading a vast amount of related material and researching ankle-protection equipment, they developed a kind of aerated ankle brace that reduces the stress of landing and helps avoid injuries. It was patented in 1989. 

In the following decades, the couple invented more gear to help paratroopers. 

"Even though I seldom returned to Mulan after I joined the army, I have deep feelings for my hometown," she said. "I decided to donate my savings, hoping it will help develop education there. Only when children receive a good education can the county have hope for the future." 

It was the biggest donation the county had ever received. 

On Sept 12, Ji Desan, director of the county's education bureau, and one of his colleagues visited Ma and signed the donation agreement. 

"I was quite surprised when I got to Ma's home in Wuhan, Hubei province," Ji said. "There was no furniture in the room except two antiquated sofas and a hard bed, but it was full of books about the military and medicine." 

"Besides the agreement, we brought a preliminary plan for a youth activity center, which is expected to be built in the county using Ma's donation," Ji said. "We told her the money would be used for improving the children's learning environment."