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When doing NS is its own reward
Publication Date : 15-03-2013
Amid the lively debate on the social consequences of immigration, the idea of a Singapore core has emerged, anchored by a sense of belonging to the nation. Where young Singapore males and their families are concerned, this national core is also represented by the institution of national service.
The formation of a people's military, as a key component of a Total Defence strategy, was born out of necessity - to overcome manpower and other limitations. But, importantly, it also helped to imbue a sense of personal responsibility towards protecting all that matters most to Singaporeans from threats within and without.
When the call to serve comes primarily from within and service is rendered wholeheartedly, national servicemen should all the more be saluted by all for their valuable contributions.
Those who participate in the defence of the land without expecting state largesse in return are driven by a higher purpose. Theirs is a supreme instinct towards preserving the security and welfare of people close to their hearts and a way of life deemed precious by all.
In this sense, NS is its own reward, and safeguarding Singapore the ultimate driver behind such service. That said, it is still worthwhile for society to ensure that the country's appreciation of the contributions made by NSmen is fully expressed.
The nature of the contributions, all-round support for this duty, and the manner of acknowledging such service are to be the concerns of the Committee to Strengthen National Service, announced by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen this week in Parliament. To assist the committee, a study should be undertaken of the many ways other countries which have conscription have undertaken to help and reward and recognise servicemen. Although circumstances differ from country to country, it might be possible to adapt worthy practices for local use.
Initial responses to the initiative have revolved around whether new rewards should be monetary in form. This should not be ruled out, of course, although money alone will never be enough of a compensation. What might benefit young men most at a formative stage of their life might be better opportunities to learn and to shape their careers. Ways to make fulfilling annual NS duties less disruptive for servicemen, and their employers, should also be looked at.
A central goal should be to strengthen the prestige of the institution and its connection with ideals of service for the larger good. NS should be viewed as a privilege and a rite of passage for young men. This ennobling mission must remain at the core of the reason for doing and supporting NS.