Perseverance pays off for Sword of Merit recipient

With Second- Lieutenant Brandon Tan Kah Hwee at the Safti Military Institute commissioning parade in Jurong yesterday is 2LT Lee Man Ying, the only woman in her graduating cohort.
With Second- Lieutenant Brandon Tan Kah Hwee at the Officer Cadet Course commissioning parade at Safti Military Institute in Jurong yesterday is 2LT Lee Man Ying, the only woman in her graduating cohort.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Second-Lieutenant Brandon Tan Kah Hwee first signed on with the army five years ago as he wanted to help his father - his family's sole breadwinner - lighten his workload and retire early.

During his specialist training in October last year, however, he lost his mother to colon cancer.

Then, after enrolling in Officer Cadet School earlier this year, his father, a retired civil servant, died from multiple myeloma in April.

"It was just days before we were due to fly to Brunei for an exercise. But I was allowed to go home and see my father for the last time," said 2LT Tan, 25.

Despite these ordeals, he decided to push on with his training.

Yesterday, he was one of 335 cadets from the Army and Air Force who were commissioned as officers of the Singapore Armed Forces, after 38 weeks of training. He said: "I was always taught not to give up halfway. I promised my parents I would do well and get an award for them."

And he did - 2LT Tan received the Sword of Merit, an accolade given to the top 10 per cent of the graduating cohort.

"The training was not easy. But when things got harder, I reminded myself that if my parents could smile when they were going through chemotherapy, who am I, as their son, to give up?"

Yesterday's commissioning parade at the Safti Military Institute in Jurong was reviewed by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Speaking at the parade, Mr Tan reminded the graduands of their purpose in defending the country.

He said: "It is always about our people - our parents, our brothers, sisters, our wives, our friends - because they give our lives meaning. They give meaning to the word 'home'. They make our world, they make our nation. They are why we defend Singapore. And we should never forget this."

Also earning her epaulette as 2LT was Ms Lee Man Ying, 28. The only woman in her graduating cohort, she made a career switch to the air force after working in research laboratories and a bank. "I wanted a career that benefits the public, and I think defending the nation and ensuring my loved ones live with peace of mind fits that bill."


Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that 2LT Lee Man Ying made a career switch to the army. It should be the air force. We are sorry for the error. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Perseverance pays off for Sword of Merit recipient'. Print Edition | Subscribe