Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is It Worth It?

Do national security concerns justify injury and death during national service? 

Last year a young Singaporean died during national service. He was not the first, nor will he be the last. As a parent whose son was also doing his national service, the death of this 19 year old youngster made me sit up and think about the cost of  NS.  

My son survived his NS obligations. But other parents have had to deal with the pain of losing their sons during National Service. Our sons benefit from NS. This is true, but do the benefits outweigh the dangers posed by the training and the loss of 2 years in the life of a young man? Perhaps not. And shame on us, if we shrug our shoulders and heave a sigh of relief that it wasnt our son who died. 

NS poses some tough questions. I dont know if I have all the answers but I see no harm in scaling down the training to one year. This reduction in NS will help minimize the risk of fatalities and provide our sons with more time to get ahead in their studies and career projections. No, I am not against NS but there are benefits of reducing the present 2 year commitment.    

The death of a national serviceman last year forced me to put my thoughts in a post last year.  The piece came from my gut. I chose however keep it as a draft and to not post it. A year has passed. There's greater sense of peace to have it posted on this blog. So here it is. Better late than never:    

Another NS man dies after training!

No, he was not a man. 19 year olds are not men. They are teenagers, mere boys, still kids in some families.

And there is no honor  in losing one's life, especially when one is still a teenager.
The arguments for NS sound patriotic and right. None of them however justify the death of a 19 year old boy. There should be a zero casualty rate in training. Parents entrust their sons to the SAF for two years with the hope that no harm will befall their sons. 

Death during NS is a tragedy. There is no silver lining for those who grieve the loss of their loved ones. 

The boy's name is Liam Kai Zheng. And yes, he was a boy - only 19 years old! Kai Zheng is not a number on a form but a teenager  whole life was extinguished. His parents will not celebrate his 21st birthday nor will they attend his wedding. Forget about the grandchildren. We mourn for Kai Zheng. He was one of us. A part of the wider Singapore family. He died for the sake of our security needs. Does national security require our sons to face the dangers and demands of military training for 2 years? 

Do they give their lives in order for us to feel secure? It might seem obvious for those whose sons either escaped unscathed during NS or whose call up for NS is still due. Its different for those who've lost their sons during NS. Its easy to be cold and pragmatic until we lose one of our own. 

My condolences to his family.

Here is an excerpt from the Straits Times May 23 2009,

After Mr Liam Kai Zheng, 19, got off the boat at the Singapore Armed Forces' ferry terminal in Changi, he was taken in an ambulance to the Changi General Hospital, where he died nine hours later on Friday morning.

Mr Liam had recently completed a four-day field camp before checking out of the Basic Military Training Centre in Pulau Tekong on Thursday night.

No comments: