From the vibrant red and gold displays everywhere and the crowds of people shopping for new clothes and goodies, to everyone around you talking excitedly about their visiting and feasting plans, it’s quite impossible to ignore the Lunar New Year festive spirit. That said, Singapore’s security and critical fortifications cannot afford to take a step back. Our military grounds must be guarded, our defence systems must be maintained, and our loved ones must be protected. Even during the Lunar New Year, there is guard duty.
Four NSmen share with us their stories of how they or their friends traded their Lunar New Year goodies for a uniform and guard duty, and what they have to say to those who are making the sacrifice this year.
While I was still an active military personnel, I would always volunteer (yes, you read that right!) to take up as many Lunar New Year guard duties as I could. You’ll likely find me in camp on the eve and on Chu Er (初二 , the second day of the lunar month).
It might sound peculiar for sure, that someone might actually volunteer for guard duty, especially on a festive occasion. But my Chinese colleagues are like family to me, and they should have the chance to kickstart the festivities without worrying about the fort. I’m just happy to be part of the ride. And no one has forgotten about us – my colleagues would drop by with festive treats and goodies for the group to share!
If you’re set to protect your camp on Lunar New Year, I salute you! The reason why families can celebrate with their loved ones at home with peace of mind is because of you; of your service to our nation. Thank you for watching over our Singapore!
– SSG (NS) Danie Dharma, MINDEF Joint Operations Centre, Combat Technician
If you’re a security trooper or know someone who served as one, you would know how erratic our schedules can be. Missing public holidays, or festive celebrations is a way of life for us. The Lunar New Year is no exception. I’m not going to lie – being assigned on the first few days of the celebrations kind of dampens the mood a little bit. And for my fellow guardsmen, that either means reunion dinners will need to be rescheduled, or their dinner tables will have an empty seat. But as they say, the strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. I remember having our own mini lohei, sharing special festive treats brought by officers and enciks, and discussing how we intend to make the best of the Lunar New Year after we book out. It also helps that the festive season generally puts everyone in a better mood.
To all assigned guard duty this Lunar New Year, I know this isn’t how you envisioned your celebrations to be. But do what you need to do, as many of our predecessors have done for us. Others may not understand the sacrifice this entails, but I do, and I, as well as many of our many brothers who have served like you, are grateful for your service. Stay strong!
– CPL (NS) Jason Chung , 613 SIR, Security Trooper
It was a close call for me.
The duty roster was out, and there it was, my name right there scheduled for guard duty on the eve of Lunar New Year. And if I’m to be really honest, it didn’t feel good. No one wants to spend the festivities doing patrols around an empty campground while everyone is out enjoying the holidays.
Thankfully, I managed to barter my way out of it! Someone I knew from another platoon was willing to swap my date for his, since his family was out of the country anyway. It really was a stroke of luck, since I was pretty much panicking before I approached him. While I did complete my guard duty eventually, it is difficult to forget the emotional roller coaster that led me there.
Guard duty isn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows – this is an undeniable fact. But our military grounds need defending regardless of the circumstance, or occasion. If you’re stuck in camp on Lunar New Year, just know that you aren’t alone. Every glass that is raised at a gathering, every pair of chopsticks that tosses a plate of yusheng, is a toast to your dedication and duty.
– PTE (NS) Hanson Li, 1 SIR, Infantry
While I may not have personally done guard duty on Lunar New Year, my friends did get the shorter end of the stick. They immediately went around asking if anyone was willing to swap shifts, though this was usually to no avail. And once acceptance set in, the looks on their faces were just priceless – crestfallen and disheartened.
That wasn’t the end of the chapter, however. Give them a bit of time and they were back to their mischievous selves! Doing guard duty with friends isn’t the worst way to kickstart the celebrations! Before booking out, my platoon even improvised a lohei for them with snacks we brought from home.
Thank you to every single soldier guarding our camps on Lunar New Year! You guys are the true MVPs of the season!
– LCP (NS) Jeffrey Chua, 21ST BN, Artillery
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Main photo: SPH Media Trust