Perhaps it is because us guys complain too much about it. We make it sound like it’s too much of a joke, too much of a waste of time. We often hear things like “nowadays soldiers have a much better life”, “last time training much harder” etc. Maybe it is true. Ok, it is true, dammit. I hear they now have laptops. But thing is, why would that diminish the value of every boy-above-18’s contribution? After all, every guy still spends almost 2 years serving the nation. No matter whether you are in guards, commando, infantry, air force, a storeman, a clerk etc etc, your contribution to the nation would not shrink or increase because another person did more or less. I think everyone’s NS experience is unique, but at the end of the day, all of us (well almost all) have contributed part of our youth to the nation. That is not something to be forgotten easily, nor put down by a “LOL” or an ignorant girl’s comments.

Yes, it is natural to feel put off, or enraged (put off being somewhat an understatement for me, actually) by some people’s nonchalant remark. I almost did a super-saiyan when I read about that insensitive LOL remark, and later on the podder’s comments while working in office. But after thinking about it and talking to my friends a bit more while still at work, I come to realise that there’s really nothing much we can do about these people. We can all start writing a drop-by-drop account of the blood and tears we’ve shed during the NS process, but it would still probably only resonate among the guys.

(But keep the notes coming people, it’s quite a good reminder of why we did what we did. I personally felt a fierce surge of pride while reading one of them, and if not for sheer common sense and the fact that there were other human beings in the office I might have just stood up and recited the Sea Soldier’s Creed while the Navy song played in the background)

Why do I say that? Military life is extremely, and fortunately or unfortunately, very different from civilian life. We can make people watch (in the comfort of their armchair) a thousand videos or read a million accounts of our NS experiences and they might remain unfazed. Short of forcing them to go through the 2 years themselves of course. But since only males are enlisted in Singapore, there’s really very limited things we can do about it. However, that doesn’t give us any less reason to defend, at the very least, our loved ones (I’d have said “defend our country” or something but it sounded too lofty). Alternatively, it’d be good if we could carry some sort of PDA into the battlefield so as to do a quick background check on a fellow Singaporean when she/he is being held at enemy gunpoint, then say “Oh it’s ok, she doesn’t appreciate what I’m doing anyway, so you can shoot for all I care”.

I think one would only understand these through personal experience. By going through the shit yourself.

(Shit, in this case, is subjective and relative. What is shit to one unit might not be so shit to another. What is shit in the air force might not seem shit to the infantry. Unless we are, of course, talking about the same stuff that…nevermind.)

I spoke to a few of my girl friends to see what they thought about this issue. One of them appreciates what we’re doing, but said that she “felt bad” that her brothers and male friends have to waste 2 years whereas she didn’t. It was only then that I paused to think – is it really a waste of time?

Most, I believe, understand only when looking back at the 2 years. It’s something very subtle…it just clicked inside me. As much as I dislike the military, I benefited from it. I made friends. I learnt things. Attitudes tweaked, perspectives changed. And the thing is, whether anybody thinks it’s a waste of time or not (and yes I do), NS is here to stay. You have to go through it anyway, so why not take something away while you’re at it? And trust me, some guys really could use the extra maturity. (Not that NS automatically makes everyone more mature though. For some, it’s a bit like System Restore – they just boot using the restore point two years ago. )

Plus, I really think the bonds forged in NS is the most valuable thing any guy could take away with him. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, friends made in NS are simply different. Because you’ve trained with them, sweated it out with them, laughed with them, cried with them (surprise surprise, we guys cry too), bathed with them, seen their junk (oh the horror), slept with them, discovered habits you’d rather not know about them and you have been through shit with them. You really only see a person’s true personality in crap times. And you know you can count on them again when crap comes again, e.g. in the form of reservist.

I think at this point of time if you’re still reading this, you might have realised that what I’ve said so far is merely an assortment of my wild and disorganized thoughts put together – there’s just so many angles to this NS issue that I decided to merely type anything that comes to my mind whenever my supervisor is not looking/ in between my alt-tabbing at work. Let me attempt to sum up in one para.

I still remember the day when I collected back my pink IC, lugging my duffel bag around the naval base, looking at the juniors who still have some time to go. Granted, being a Gen Y myself, growing up relatively safely without threat of riot and war, it is really difficult to train for something we hope would never happen. But despite this, my batchies and I have more or less scraped through, and many after us will continue to do so. I’m not the chiongster type, as my platoon mates would know. I’m not platoon best, not IPPT gold, and I’m the kind whose very existence you probably wouldn’t notice. I’m just a very ordinary CPL in an extraordinary platoon. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to just finish the 2 years and be done with it. Maybe not everyone agrees with my thinking.

But whether you are a commander or the commanded, the chiong-sua type or the kiao-ka type, I think everyone can agree on this – you are compelled to serve, but not compelled to die serving. Because apparently, not everyone appreciates it if you die inside…but I’m sure everyone wants to see you make it out alive – although not all would understand what goes on in there. As one of my friends with a uniform fetish (no names shall be named *cough) would probably say…who wouldn’t like a sexy man in uniform? LOL.

(ok I cheated. two paras.)