Pride in uniform

Talking of oneness, the name plates of the officers and men said it all.

Eighth of October is the annual day of Indian Air force and come what may, I do not miss the get-together even though I  left the defence forces 35 years back. And even though the baton has passed to Gen next and there is just an odd chance of my recognising someone or someone recognising me. For me and many like me, to be there is important. Nothing else counts.

This Air Force day, there was a conflicting invitation from a couple who had come home to invite me and my wife to dinner in a super star hotel. I said no and gave my reason. And they would not take my no for an answer. The Air force days come and go and missing one such day is no big deal, was the host’s position. The hostess added her bit when she said:  After all you all go to the defence forces to make a living like any other profession and she did not understand why I was making such a fuss and declining their invitation just because I would be missing one annual function.

I kept my cool and refrained from telling her that money can feed your stomach but can it generate a passion that leads one to believe in the military credo which goes something like this? The honour and safety of my country comes first always and every time. The safety and welfare of the people I command comes next always and every time.  

That people in the uniform spend their winters guarding our frontiers in Siachen glaciers just for pay. That some of us were in the defense forces and fighting the Chinese in 1962, the Pakistanis in 1965 and 1971 just for pay alone. That many of them spend half their careers away from their families when posted at the frontiers of our country just for pay. 
Now let us look at the peacetime model. Discipline and oneness is the DNA of the forces.
 This Diwali, I decided to go for my walk into the Air Force establishment near Hebbal and as I entered the gate, it was like moving from the garbage city to the garden city. There were lush green lawns and all trees were standing erect, numbered and manicured ready to salute me. The play grounds reflected the energy special to the defence forces with young and not so young playing together and in the living areas, there was peace and serenity with no honking of horns.

Talking of oneness, the name plates of the officers and men said it all. From Malliks to Mennons, from Kannans to Kauls and from Bhowmiks to Bhardwajs, all states without exception were represented.

And their king is a Singh. There was oneness in them not because of their pay packets because they wore the same uniform and lived by a common credo. There is a saying which goes something like this. A country that does not respect its soldiers is doomed and I am sure the couple in question is a minority of one. 

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