By S M Ong
FREE money! That's what I blurted out when I heard that the Government was giving out money to NSmen again for our "contribution".
It was announced last week that every citizen NSman will receive the National Service Recognition Award (NSRA), which will amount to between $9,000 and $10,500 each by the time he completes his Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS).
Woohoo! I love free money almost as much as I love free food.
Then came the six saddest words in the English language besides "I like you as a friend".
"Government policy has never been retroactive," said Minister of State for Defence Koo Tsai Kee.
And with those six magic words, my $9,000 to $10,500 went poof! It means that if you've already completed your ORNS, you're out of luck, old man - no free money for you.
I had completed my ORNS four years ago and I've never felt older, partly also because I can't tell the difference between Taio Cruz and Tinchy Stryder.
Maybe I'm just spoilt. For the past few years when the Government was giving out GST Offset Packages and Growth Dividends, NSmen received a little extra free money for our blood, sweat and tears, regardless of whether we were active servicemen or had already been put out to pasture.
It was only $100 more, but it was in cash and enough to make my wife envious that she didn't get it.
Well, honey, how many weekends did you burn doing guard duty? How many blisters did you get on your hands because of the rusty chin-up bars in Tekong? How many years of your life did you spend counting the days until you get your pink IC back? I'll tell you, dear. Zero!
So stay home and just keep making more babies like the Government wants you to,woman!
With the NSRA, it's my turn to be envious. Kids these days - national service is so much easier for them. I bet the chin-up bars aren't even rusty. And now they're getting thousands of free dollars from the Government too?
At least, the money will go into their Post-Secondary Education Account and Central Provident Fund (CPF), so they can't blow it on bubble tea and ringtones. By the time they can get their CPFmoney...well, let's just say they won't be kids anymore.
As for me, I have to learn to accept that my NSdays were a lifetime ago. At my age, perhaps the only free money from the Government I can look forward to now is a Senior Citizens' Bonus. Woohoo!
This article was first published in The New Paper.