Coming back for NS, coming back home

A S'pore-born teen's refusal to return from New Zealand to serve national service has been a talking point lately.

But not all S'poreans who grow up overseas are as resistant. HARIZ BAHARUDIN ( speaks to three who returned to serve.

A slip of paper he had received in 2010 - when he was 16 - turned Aneirin Flynn's whole life upside down.

The Singapore-born man recalls how he was uprooted from his life in England - a place he had called home since he was three years old.

The letter was a call to report for a pre-enlistment medical screening here for national service.

Mr Flynn, now 22, is among the Singaporeans who returned here from overseas to serve.

The issue has recently been in the spotlight after news site published an article about 19-year-old Singapore-born Brandon Smith.

Read also:

NS pre-enlistee: I'm not trying to 'chao keng'

NS discharge story - fact or fiction?

Man's 2-month jail term for dodging NS reduced to a fine

The teenager, who has lived in New Zealand most of his life, was reportedly ordered to turn up for his pre-enlistment medical screening and faces a jail term and a fine if he does not.

In Mr Flynn's case, he decided he would go through NS and adjust to life here.

Speaking with an English accent, he says: "I was always aware that Singapore is a part of my life, and that I had to go through NS some day."

His family uprooted their lives in England, just so that they could relocate back here.

His lecturer-father and artist-mother had to give up their established careers, a cosy two-storey house, a car and close friends.

Mr David Flynn, 53, a lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, says: "Our son is also a son of Singapore, so it was a given that he would have to serve.

"Our family had always been adaptable so we saw the move as a new adventure."

The younger Mr Flynn confesses that the move was scary: "It was very sudden. I had so many people who cared about me there, and it was difficult to leave the place that made me who I am."

But once he had made up his mind, Mr Flynn came back two years ahead of the 2013 due date. He was 17 when he returned and did his A levels at Victoria Junior College.

By the time he started his NS stint at the Naval Diving Unit (NDU), he had eased into life here.

He says with a chortle: "I could speak Singlish and even picked up some Hokkien swear words."

Yet no amount of local immersion prepared him for NS.

He stood out because he looked and spoke differently from others. That meant being noticed from day one, recounts Mr Flynn.

"From my accent and the way I look, it was obvious I stood out a bit. Everything I did was more or less amplified," he says.

And because he stood out, Mr Flynn was chosen to be the first in-charge (IC) for his platoon - an experience he still remembers.

He says: "I had no idea what the commands were in Malay and I remember staying up, frantically memorising them."


Mr Flynn went on to excel and was one of five men chosen to attend Officer Cadet School. He eventually became a platoon commander in the NDU.

Going from being an outsider to giving out commands was a drastic change for Mr Flynn.

"It was a steep learning curve, but I learnt a lot about mutual respect and had great fun," he says.

A year has passed since Mr Flynn finished his NS. He is now a graphic designer.

He admits that he misses life back in England occasionally - especially berry-picking in the countryside, but he is also a self-professed prata-eating, complain king Singaporean.

"I am a Singaporean, and this is my home," he says with conviction.

This article was first published on Jan 31, 2016.
Get The New Paper for more stories.