It is always sad to hear news of national servicemen dying in the line of duty. While we grieve with the parents and families of those who have lost their lives, we may never fully comprehend the full extend of their loss.
Whenever incidences like these happen, we tend to be quick to judge and put the blame on the SAF. Sometimes, things gets out of hand and the issue(s) become(s) politicised and a lot of anti-establishment feelings are generated. Some worry that their sons or possibly daughters will not be properly cared for by the SAF. Some might form the impression that the SAF is heartless.
So, is the SAF a heartless and uncaring organisation? I feel compelled to share my story. Nothing drama.
About 9 years ago, while training in Thailand with my NS Artillery Battalion, I received an sms from my pregnant wife to inform me that she was bleeding and the doctor mentioned that she was in danger of a miscarriage. My heart sank. We were in camp preparing stores and equipment to roll out that evening for the artillery battalion live-firing exercise which would keep us outfield for a couple of days.
To cut the story short, after reporting to the CO, and verifying the facts, he graciously allowed me to be flown back to Singapore via SQ at the earliest possible flight the next day. I was driven from Kanchanaburi camp to the Bangkok Embassy in a Thai army jeep by a Thai Army personnel almost three times my age (thank you ‘Thai Encik’) and was escorted to the airport and plane by the Singapore embassy staff (thank you) in Bangkok.
Till this day, I am still thankful to my CO, Battery Commander and BSM for going through so much administrative trouble, making all the arrangements despite still having to prepare for the exercise, to ensure that I could be back for my wife. I am also thankful to my fellow comrades of 258SA Bravo Battery for their understanding of my sudden absence, leaving them ‘chiong’ with one man short and one of my regrets is to never have gone through that last FATEP together with these 兄弟们！
As an educator, I occasionally encounter parents who ask me about NS as they are worried about their sons’ well-being. I usually tell them that you probably will not find any organisation as obsessed about safety and soldiers’ well-being as the SAF. (Common lah, even our parents also don’t make us water parade to ensure we are properly hydrated before we play sports. Of course, some parents will still force their sons to drink the bitter ‘liang teh’ : )
Yes, sometimes accidents and human errors do happen and we should learn from those lessons. But at the very core of SAF, I would personally testify that it is a caring institution, one that I am proud to be associated with albeit now only as an MR personnel.
I hope those currently serving NS will stay strong and united, have faith and make the best use of your NS time to grow as a person and grow your friendship and watch out for each other.
To the Commanders, WOs and specialists, I pray that God will grant you wisdom to make the right decisions to ensure that our Singapore sons come back home safely after their tour of duty.