'Flash a smile at those in uniform'

'Flash a smile at those in uniform'
Some of the 70 students from junior colleges, polytechnics and ITE who participated in the focus group discussion yesterday on how to strengthen NS.

SINGAPORE - Be careful about criticism, and offer a simple smile.

These were several of the suggestions from young people as they urged more respect and recognition for Singapore's citizen soldiers at a focus group discussion on how to strengthen national service.

The 70 students, aged between 17 and 20, were from junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

Most said they were satisfied with the Government's efforts in rewarding and recognising full- time national servicemen (NSFs) who serve the mandatory two-year stints, as well as operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).

But they felt that the rest of the country can do more.

The public, for instance, should be more guarded in their criticisms of NSFs caught in less than flattering scenarios through photos that are posted online.

In 2011, a picture of a maid carrying an army backpack while walking behind an NSF was posted on citizen journalism website Stomp, sparking an uproar among netizens. They questioned whether the new generation of servicemen were becoming too "soft".

One student, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: "Rather than criticise these soldiers, they should understand the context in which the photo was taken."

As to how to better reward national servicemen, a majority suggested incentives like a higher NS allowance, tax breaks and discounted bus and train fares for those serving.

But it did not always have to be about money.

Others suggested holding a camp where people can experience army life, creating an "NS Appreciation Day" holiday, and simply flashing a smile at those in uniform.

ITE Simei student Hazel Lim Yen Ling, 17, said: "A smile may be a small thing to do but it will go a long way in brightening up the day for the soldier and motivate him to do better."

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