Every year as I watch the National Day Parade, I watch it with a lot of pride.
I am a military wife.
My husband, along with thousands of men and women in uniform, serve Singapore in the Air Force.
The Parade that celebrates Singapore’s independence took on a different meaning from the time I started dating my husband. Including our courtship days before we got married, we have been together for almost 11 years. I can count with one hand how many out of that 11 years I actually got to celebrate National Day with my husband. Most years, he is on duty somewhere in Singapore. There was one year that he was part of the parade, marching with his head held high as he donned his uniform.
While the rest of Singapore watches and enjoys the festivities every 9th of August, I am usually sitting at home, waiting for my husband to return home.
Unlike the big parade itself which happens on that one big day though, it is not only on 9th of August that I do such waiting. I wait every Saturday starting from around June of every year until 9th of August comes along. Depending on how my husband is involved, he may be out from before lunch time till after dinner time.
Being friends with others who are military spouses, I know I am not the only one who does the waiting. Many families are waiting every single Saturday for that man or woman they love to come home from many rehearsals before the grand day itself. And once the grand day is over, we heave a sigh of relief, knowing that we will have that person with us on most Saturdays again.
So when National Day rolls by, military families like mine celebrate a number of things.
We celebrate that someone we love is part of protecting our nation. We celebrate that someone we love is serving our nation with pride. We celebrate that our loved ones contribute to the peace and harmony that Singapore enjoys.
We celebrate that finally, on National Day, people who may complain about uniformed personnel taking seats in the mrt, are showing some gratitude and recognition for those in uniform because they are marching in Singapore’s biggest annual celebration. Most of all, we celebrate that after 9th of August, our weekends “return to normal”.
While we are on that thought about our family member who is a uniformed personnel being away, the many Saturdays before the National Day Parade isn’t the only period during the year that we miss them.
We miss them when they are on long hour duties. When I am at my mum’s place for dinner, my mum would occasionally ask me what time my husband is coming back. Most of the time, my answer is that I don’t know. My mum doesn’t understand why I don’t know. I don’t know because my husband doesn’t exactly have fixed working hours. Sometimes he has day duty, sometimes he has night duty. Sometimes he has to stay behind to finish paper work after he is done with his duty. Sometimes he works for more than 12 hours a day.
We miss our men-and-women-in-uniform at meal times. My children and I don’t always get to have dinner with my husband. Whenever he can come home in time for dinner, we celebrate. I once had to arrange dinner with a friend. When I told her that I had to check with my husband before I could confirm the time, she asked me why I couldn’t decide. I cannot decide because my husband doesn’t always knock off at the same time everyday, unlike her husband.
We miss our uniform-personnel-loved-ones when they have to go overseas for training. Depending on the purpose of the training, the trips can last from days to months. When my daughter was still a baby, my husband had to go to Thailand for a few weeks for one such trip. When he came home, my daughter couldn’t recognize him and cried all the way home as he sat next to her in the car.
Uniformed men and women sometimes miss out on special moments that go on in the family because of their call of duty to serve the nation. They don’t always get to choose when they want to take a break or have their off-days. They may plan certain days to take a break, but if something comes up at work, the plans are cancelled and they are back in their uniforms.
This National Day, as Singapore celebrates 50 wonderful years of independence, and many more years to come, let us appreciate the men and women in uniform. Not just the ones who are in the marching contingent, but also those who are doing other duties all over Singapore. Whether it’s the Police Force, the Civil Defence Force, the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, many men and women are making sacrifices every single day, just to ensure the safety of Singapore.
Appreciation isn’t only about celebrating these people on National Day alone. Appreciation is thanking them for what they do in our daily lives. Go up to someone in uniform, extend a handshake and thank them for serving Singapore. That is the least we can do because what these people give up is more than just time to serve our nation.