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Today, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) celebrated ‘SAF Day’, a day when men and women in the Armed Forces offer their allegiance to the nation. Back in the days of military service, SAF Day was perhaps the biggest dividing line between official and reality.

As part of SAF, this was a very important part of our calendar. There was always a parade (presidential attendance) and lots of promotion going on. It was when the “Best Unit” was announced that management got excited. But those of us on the ground didn’t really care about SAF Day. The reason is simple. It means that there were no holidays attached.

In light of what I have just said about SAF Day, I have become a fervent believer in SAF, or at least the National Service Agency. I never get tired of saying it, but the most “educational” period of my life was during my two and a half years of national service.

Sure, I have a degree from a respectable university, but it’s not the dissertation that’s important to me, it’s the process of getting that dissertation. To tell you the truth, college was a great party, but it taught me very little outside of academics.

The military, by contrast, carved out a world I never knew existed. Suddenly I had to get along with people who thought I was living in a bubble because my legal address at the time didn’t start with “Blk…”.

I was practically an outcast, but at the same time I found men who would be my mother’s different siblings. I think the military was the first time in my life that I wasn’t bought by money and that I was guided to do something. My dad might vomit if he read this, but the first time he lifted his chin up the bar, he felt more accomplished than getting a degree.

In a world where children are increasingly shielded from the world outside the bubble, national service is even more valuable. The computer game generation needs to understand that life, especially life in war, is cruel and nasty. People tend to forget that it has to be uncomfortable to change and adapt.

Being able to jump over low walls in computer graphics is something else. It’s a different story if you have webbing and just dashed 700 meters before physically climbing a wall. This experience will humble you as you realize that the work is real and that you need something inside of you to complete it.

SAF has a mission to protect Singapore from all external threats. It’s never been tested. However, this does not mean that his SAF is redundant.

Rather, modern life makes SAF more significant in helping Singaporean youth discover the reality of life and living beyond the bubble that we have been led to believe is our natural state. now have

I may have complained a lot about being in the Special Air Force, but I am grateful to this institution and the people who raised me.

A version of this article was first published on beautifully

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