Chinese community recognizes WWII ‘hero’

Published 9:38 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

By Hong Mizelle

For the Enterprise

“How about every six months?”

That’s what J.B. Caldwell, our Chinese hero, said to me when he was ready to leave his 93-year-old birthday party on Aug. 25.

It had overwhelmed him, and was still unfinished. That meant my first organized party was successful.

That day’s weather was also perfect. It wasn’t too hot, but there was a little breeze in the air.

At 10:30 a.m., when my husband, my son, my brother and I arrived at Shelter 5 in Rich Park, Mocksville, I saw that Mr. Caldwell was there already. He told me he was just making sure he was in the right place for his party. My invitation to him said noon because I wanted to get the decorations and food ready with a full shelter of people to welcome him.

Since the party was for him, we let him hang out while we set up. So, my first surprise wasn’t a surprise.

Starting at 11 a.m., people started coming. Like I hoped, there were lots of Chinese people arriving, coming from Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex and Greensboro. Lots of local American residents showed up, too, totaling approximately 100 people. I officially started the party after 12, instead of 11:30, because Chinese people kept “kidnapping” Mr. Caldwell to take pictures.

I was worried about his health, and kept my eyes on him at all times, because he just had a small surgery a week ago, and fell at home two weeks ago. But he said he’s fine, and told me “whereever you want me.”

When it was his turn to speak, after I made a short speech, he only said: “I wish my wife was here.”

Then, everyone had a moment of silence and I teared up a bit.

There were so many things for the eye to take in, especially those nine Chinese women dressed in “cheongsam.”  The leader of the team is my almost 20-year friend, Liqing Huang. They also brought lots of Chinese-style gifts for Mr. Caldwell: a huge, pine-crane fan, a white tiger statue, some hardcover chopsticks, and beautiful roses. I got him a Chinese soldier winter hat which everyone thought was special. He tried it on and laughed. I also wrapped a mug with the print “14th Army Air Force China” that included the flying tiger picture.

My son and I made his birthday card. My son drew while I colored. The drawing of the horse is the first one I’ve ever drawn. The 12-foot long blue color base with red Chinese words: “Wish Mr. JB Caldwell Happy Birthday” banner was from my younger brother’s artist hands.

The surprises were one after another and we just wanted to thank Mr. Caldwell for helping the Chinese nation fight Japanese agressors 75 years ago.

All the guests took a dish for the party. Even with two tables, there wasn’t enough room. I would like to thank the Jin Jin Chinese Buffet, Dynasty Chinese Restaurant and China Grill for offering delicious lomain, fried rice and egg rolls. The most attractive food was the birthday cake, which was made by my co-worker’s wife, Staci, the best cake art designer. It expressed our exact appreciation for our Chinese hero.

All guests sang “Happy Birthday” in English, then the Chinese sang it in their native language.

We, the Chinese people, will always be grateful for generations to come.

I would like to thank my professional photographer friend, Stallone, his wife and son, and chief reporter Changzi Mao from the China Press in Raleigh, to record this precious event for me.

Thank you, all Chinese and American guests who supported the party. The purpose we knew was honoring our Chinese hero, Mr. J.B. Caldwell.

I’m sure every reader will understand why Mr. Caldwell asked to have a party every six months.

JB Caldwell flew some 36 missions over China during World War II aboard B-24 The Cocky Bobby, helping to drive Japanese invaders.