NSmen who served earlier not forgotten

Mr Michael Gerald Hong ("Reward NSmen who served earlier"; last Saturday) is one of many national servicemen who served during Singapore's formative years and contributed to shaping the future of our young nation.

I salute him and the earlier generations of national servicemen who had served selflessly.

As someone who has served too and is a member of the Committee to Strengthen National Service, I am aware that, over the years, the Defence and Home Affairs ministries have worked hard to recognise each generation of national servicemen.

Since 1990, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has convened the Committee to Recognise the Contribution of Operationally Ready National Servicemen to Total Defence (Record) every four to five years, to come up with ways to recognise the contributions of NSmen, both past and present.

Some notable benefits for NSmen introduced by Record over the years include the development of leisure and recreational facilities, increase in combat/operational allowance, and faster and larger rank allowance increments.

More recently, Mindef and the Home Affairs Ministry introduced the NS40 bonus as well as NS45 benefits to recognise all who have served NS.

At the same time, it must be acknowledged that no amount of monetary compensation can make up for the sacrifices made in defending our home and way of life.

The courage, sweat and sacrifice of the earlier generations have been valued and rewarded.

NS has helped to maintain the peace and security we enjoy today. The deterrence factor allows present and future generations of Singaporeans to grow up and thrive in a peaceful and stable environment. This is recognition and reward in and of itself.

The Committee to Strengthen National Service has discussed recognition extensively during its meetings as well as during public consultations.

We want to ensure that recommendations are meaningful and do not reduce defending our country to something that is transactional.

I have also heard from NSmen who want to see recognition and appreciation from the larger community, such as employers and the public.

We must recognise that the current and future generations owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Hong's cohort and earlier generations. As beneficiaries of the peace and stability that we enjoy, we have an obligation to also appreciate the contributions of each preceding generation of NSmen.

Gerald Singham

Member, Committee to Strengthen National Service

This article was published on May 10 in The Straits Times.

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