I received my certificate from the Ministry of Defence earlier this year. My duty to the country, as far as having to commit to annual military training, had been fulfilled. The relief and satisfaction came with a bittersweet tinge. As a close military mentor told me, “you’ll still be serving the country in other ways”, and he’s right. I always will be.
But there’s something about being in the military fraternity and privy to its many traditions.
Celebrating SAF Day by wearing our military uniform to our workplaces isn’t exactly the most established practice, but it’s one I decided to honour when it started 3 years ago. The following year, a few more brave souls at work joined in.
I started working at a new place this year, but decided to uphold this young tradition anyway. It was nice to find out that friends at the old workplace did too.
In the afternoon I had the privilege of attending the SAF Day Parade. As I took closeups of the contingents that marched past, it occurred to me that I had passed a life stage. When I looked closely at the faces of the soldiers, like here:
I realised how young they were. Faith stood behind me as I processed the digital photos, and we both uttered at the same time, “Our boys”. Each one, so full of youth, vitality and promise. Each one, so precious to the loved ones around them. Each life, never to be wasted carelessly in war, but to be carefully nurtured to their fullest potential in useful, faithful, diligent service.
As part of Singapore’s (and the SAF’s) Golden Jubilee, more than 500 men from SAF’s pioneer batch were invited to the parade. Looking at the many faces seated through my lens gave me a mind-meld through time. How these men were once the young, vibrant soldiers that stood on the parade square, and gave the fervour of their youth into safeguarding the country we live in today. Some of them, proudly adorning berets and medals earned over years of service, each one perhaps a father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, friend.
Our fathers. You can feel their joy at meeting each other, the same camaraderie we enjoy with our reservist brothers, steadfast after all these years.
These 50 years of soldiering and guarding our nation is a legacy now passed down to every Singaporean. We face very different challenges from our forebears, but their spirit of determination, resilience and adaptability lives on in us.