Last Sunday, Mr. K.C. Vijayan penned a wonderful commentary in The Sunday Times, titled “Honour Our Fallen National Servicemen” (May 20, 2012), following the unfortunate deaths of 3SG Tan Mou Sheng and PTE Dominique Sarron Lee. It echoes my perspective that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) should, while celebrating 45 years of National Service, “consider organising meaningful commemorative events this year, in honour of these Singaporean men who have died while serving their country” (here).
Mr. Vijayan raised some excellent points – for instance, that there “is no memorial in Singapore to post-independence causalities of uniformed staff killed while in service – which I have quickly summarised and reproduced for your reference.
1. Proposal for a commemorative memorial or tomb to be constructed. “I believe a memorial or tomb which inscribes the names of all national servicemen killed on duty in the last 45 years since NS started bears consideration … Imagine a memorial wall, designed by a renowned architect in a suitable park, inscribed with the names of all the fallen national servicemen as a perpetual tribute”.
2. Public memorials can be organised, and could go beyond military funerals per se. “Singapore Management University political science associate professor John Donaldson is of the view that public memorials honour and serve as a unifying place in the nation to take pride in its heroes and war dead”.
3. The memorials are not simply a remembrance of the dead, but an acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by servicemen every day. “[I]nstead of a military cemetery, a memorial to Singaporeans who died in service or those who died serving Singapore or Singaporean organisations would prompt interest and receptiveness among Singaporeans”.
Along with the construction of a memorial, I believe that commemorative events can be contemplated. As I wrote in the email to MINDEF, published in the aforementioned post (and still waiting for a reply): Their sacrifices are reminders of the very same sacrifices that our Servicemen make on a day-to-day basis: their youth, assorted opportunity costs, bodies (taking into account physical injuries) et cetera. Their deaths remind us of the significance of national defence, and the risks that soldiers go through each and every day. More importantly, our remembrance of them would allow us to celebrate the wondrous contributions they have made throughout their lives, and how they have made a wonderful difference to the lives of their loved ones.