NSmen Share: Pa, I’m a Soldier Now!

Let’s show our dads some love this Father's Day!

By Sean Yee        12 June 2024

Like for many readers, my military journey was definitely far from boring. But one of my most vivid memories of my time in service isn’t the outfields or the relentless drills, but one thing my dad had said to me during my weekly bookouts. 

“Sean ah, the house is a bit quieter without you around.” 

If pictures could say a thousand words, an implicit statement could say a million. Fathers may not be the most affectionate (at least in my case), so it can come across as nonchalance or apathy. But deep inside, they do care a lot about our welfare, especially when we are thrown into an unfamiliar but crucial milestone of our lives. They may not understand what we’re going through, but they try. And what more can you ask for?

In this edition of NSmen Share, we ask our NSmen about their fathers’ reactions to their military enlistment and their Father’s Day wishes for our family’s silent warrior.

Roysten Lee Chee Chow,

My father used to regale me with tales from his own time in the military as a 106mm gunner. He may not have been an officer, but he took pride in what he did.

That really was what inspired me to join the National Cadet Corps in Secondary School, to serve a greater cause. That served as the bridge that brought me and my dad closer. He would teach me nifty “life hacks” such as a quick and effective way to polish my boots; to “starch” and iron my NCC uniforms so that they could “stand”. Little did I know, his insights would later lead me to taking on a leadership role in my CCA. It’s more than the title though – my dad showed me that everyone has a role to play, big or small, and as long as you find purpose in what you do and try your best, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

While I was in OCS, I got injured in my very first week and received 7 stitches on my forehead. My dad wasn’t an expressive man; when he came to visit, he was his usual stoic self, harping over why I wasn’t more careful. My mum would later tell me that my dad had dropped everything upon hearing the news of my injury so that he could rush over to the hospital to see me. That is how he was. He wasn’t one to tell you how much he loves you. Perhaps that’s how he was brought up. But I know he loved me.

My dad was a humble man. He was selfless and always had a heart for people. I always knew it, but it hits differently to hear it from his ex-colleagues and old friends during his funeral (he passed away late last year.)  I strive to live and serve like him; to help and influence people and make society a better one in my own small ways. 

– COL (NS) Roysten Lee Chee Chow, 63 BDE, Guards

Yee Chong Wah

My father and I weren’t always the closest.

He was pretty much a loudmouth. I, on the other hand, preferred the solace of silence. It wasn’t that he didn’t love me; he was just pretty much not around most of the time since he was mostly out for work. That changed however, when I was enlisted into the military.

I recall the day before I was to head to CMPB for my first day. He came back early carrying bags of food and a folded talisman he had gotten from the nearby temple. He came to my room and asked if I would like to have dinner with him, alone. We never ate together, just the two of us, before. He reminded me to take care of myself, to stay safe and to come back as often as I could. My father never served the military, but he was so supportive of me and my 2 brothers when we did. 

He passed away this month, and though we may have grown distant, I have much to thank him for. Happy Father’s Day pa, and we will always keep you in our hearts. 

– LT Yee Chong Wah, 68th Guards, Guards

Tat Sang

My mum and dad were always intrigued by Singapore’s military policy. They came to Singapore during a time of political unrest in their home state. All they wanted was a better life for our family, away from the volatility and uncertainty. While my father may not have served in the army, he understands the fragility and sanctity of peace, perhaps more than others. When my brother and I were enlisted, he didn’t say much, except to do our very best to make the most out of this national obligation. As my brother and I are the only naturalised citizens in our family, he felt it was important that we fully embrace the system here and the service that it entails. 

He never really expected much from us except that we live a life that we find meaningful. Never one to complain, he has always supported us in hindsight. My dad may be a man of few words, but we know he loves our family. We don’t usually celebrate Father’s Day, but I guess it’s because we all know that in our hearts, family is always number one.

– CFC (NS) Po Tat Sang, 3AMB, Armor

My father is pretty much like me – an introvert. So understandably, we don’t talk to one another much. He also couldn’t make it to Tekong to see me off on my first day of enlistment, so that was a bummer. However, I soon came to realise how much he actually cared. He knows that my mum and I are close, so he would frequently ask my mother about my day-to-day life. Once, she told me during our daily phone conversations that “Your pa is always asking if you’re coping well leh. Or he would remind me to make your favourite soup when you come home. Must try to talk to him more.” 

And hindsight is always 20/20. I started noticing how my dad would try to have a meal together when I was home on the weekends, or ask me questions like if I had enough money or if I was drinking enough water during my military training. Unknown to me, he had also been checking with his friends who had sons in the army to better understand the struggles I was facing during my own military service. 

I may not say it to you pa because it’s awkward, but I hope you know that I appreciate you. 

– 3SG (NS) Huang Mao Han, 701SIR MSC, Logistics

Main photo: SPH Media Trust

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