Volunteers at the Singapore Armed Forces Veteran League (SAFVL) are akin to “Commitment to Defence Ambassadors”, says Major (RET) Abdul Samad.
The retired officer, who is currently in the membership sub-committee and the welfare sub-committee of SAFVL, cites examples. “We conduct tours for school students and SAF servicemen to places such as the National Museum of Singapore and the former Ford factory to learn of Singapore’s history, and leading ‘Battlefield Tours’ for NCC cadets to sites to draw lessons from valiant battles that were fought against Japanese forces in the early 1940s”, he explains.
Besides organising tours, the volunteers also help to reconnect National Servicemen with the armed forces, elaborates 2WO (RET) James Chua Boon Heong, chairman of Activities, Functions, Ceremonies and International Affiliation Committee of SAFVL. “We ensure that our members continue to keep in touch with the SAF by attending passing out parades and graduation ceremonies of Recruits, Specialist Cadets and Officer Cadets. And it’s at such events that our veterans get to interact with parents to share with them their experiences in the SAF and to offer words of encouragement to the soldiers”.
Volunteers also play another important role: facilitating key memorial services in Singapore, adds 2WO (RET) Chua. “Every year since 2014 on 10 Mar, SAFVL organises a memorial ceremony at the Konfrontasi Memorial located in Dhoby Ghaut Green on Orchard Road. Our members also support the annual memorial services at the Kranji War Memorial and Civilian War Memorial in Beach Road”, he says.
To him, Remembrance Day at Kranji War Memorial has particular resonance. “Our veterans lead NCC cadet students from various school uniformed groups to five battle sites around the island. At each site, they will relate to them how and why Singapore fell, and never to let that happen again”.
Such is the importance of having a deep commitment to national defence and reinforcing this through education, says Major (RET) Abdul Samad: “History has painfully taught us that unless we are prepared to defend ourselves, no one else is going to fight and die for us. Only we can defend ourselves; no one else can do it for us. We don’t want to have to go through another period where our people become hapless and have to suffer atrocities under an occupation force”.
As ex-servicemen and SAF veterans who have spent a significant part of their lives involved in the defence of Singapore, they are in the best position to share their personal experiences with the next generation. “To put it simply, we are able to tell it like it is as we’ve been there”, he explains.