Lin Wei-Lun
 “00074” was the number I was assigned for my Taiwanese military service, compulsory for all young men on the island. The civil war with the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) offically ended after Chiang Kai-shek fled with his troops to Taiwan in 1949. The legacy of the civil war and the lingering threat of military invasion from China means Taiwanese men such as myself have to complete four months of military service (down from the two years that my father had to serve). This short and badly organized training is poor preparation for military combat. But the experience brought me in contact with Taiwanese men from all walks of life.

Every "soldier" was stripped of his identity. We all had the same close- shaven haircut, wore the same uniform, ate the same dreary meals, and slept in the same dormitory. The environment was constructed to create uniformity among the conscripts. But still, with time, our personalities and quirks found a way of sneaking through. I soon discovered in the sea of green uniforms was a monk, several gang members, and a rich Taipei school drop-out. Never in our lives would such an eclectic group of people come together and call themselves bunk-mates for four months.

© Lin Wei-Lun