Important to do more for national servicemen

It is true that since its early days, national service has played a key role in developing the defence capabilities for what was previously an impoverished Singapore ("Holistic support of NS key to progress, prosperity" by Mr Teo Siong Seng; Thursday).

The collective sacrifice of all who have served their NS cannot be understated or dismissed, be it by employers or the rest of the population.

As mentioned by Mr Teo, a member of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord), younger Singaporeans, having been born in times of peace and stability, have little knowledge of the early years of independence and no longer subscribe to the traditional role of NS.

To address this issue, visits to military exhibitions and the Singapore Discovery Centre, which houses the Army Museum and other defence-related attractions, should be rigorously promoted. In fact, we should explore the possibility of such visits being made compulsory for young Singaporeans and new citizens.

The ideas proposed by Accord are helpful, but we cannot stop there. Taking in more feedback from full-time as well as operationally ready national servicemen will be a good start towards enhancing their welfare.

While it has been said that their contributions cannot be measured in dollars and cents, it will be folly to hold back implementing welfare programmes because of a small increase in costs.

To expect the wholehearted commitment of our servicemen, we cannot afford to treat them in a miserly way. This is true even in the later stages of life, when they enter the job market, for example.

While the public sector has factored in their service and granted them higher salaries, this recognition is barely reflected in the private sector.

We must continue to explore ways to improve the lives of our servicemen and increase awareness of their sacrifices, or it will lead to an erosion of their morale and our defence.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Important to do more for national servicemen'. Print Edition | Subscribe