SINGAPORE - Lieutenant colonel Wong Pui Pin, who is this year's National Day Parade (NDP) commander, is embarking on a "journey of abstinence" for the next two months.
The 36-year-old intends to forgo his favourite durians and spicy food to keep his voice in tip-top condition.
"My voice and the ability to project commands clearly is of utmost importance," said LTC Wong, who is Head of General Staff in Headquarters, Armour.
He is also second-in-command in the 54th Singapore Armoured Brigade.
His previous appointments include Commanding Officer of the 40th Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment, where he led his soldiers to clinch Best Armour Unit last year and this year.
While LTC Wong has previously commanded parades during his 17-year-long stint in the Singapore Armed Forces, this is the first time he is leading such a big group - close to 2,000 participants from 35 marching contingents.
"One challenge is to lead and inspire all of them over the six months. And to ensure that they enjoy the journey, and have pride and honour in taking part," he said.
He intends to talk to the participants during rehearsals to ensure that they are well cared for.
"It also motivates and inspires them to know that we are a like-minded group of Singaporeans coming together to do our part to celebrate the nation's independence."
LTC Wong also gave credit to his supportive family, especially his wife, who will have to do more on weekends, including ferrying their children to classes.
Another person who is also thankful to her family is long-time National Day Parade participant Salbiah Bee Jamaludin, 45. She is also grateful to her husband and son for their unwavering support throughout her 10 years marching in the parade.
"I still worry about making mistakes even now, but they always encourage and motivate me," said Ms Salbiah, who is an assistant supervisor of inpatient operations at Changi General Hospital.
Rehearsals take about seven hours of her precious "family time" on weekends, and are often held under the sun.
But Ms Salbiah keeps going anyway, and this year, she will bear the flag for the National Trades Union Congress contingent, marching alongside the friends she has made in the rehearsals.
"It's a good chance for me to mix with people of different races," said Ms Salbiah, who has also marched in parades at the National Stadium and the Padang.
Her favourite experience is marching past the crowds as her contingent exits the parade venue. "When we receive applause and cheers during the city march, it makes me very happy. The emotions on the actual day is priceless and worth remembering."
This article was first published on June 19, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.