The many strands of Singapore's well-woven tapestry

As parade commander, LTC Poon will be in charge of more than 1,400 people from 31 military and civilian contingents. Ms Maslinda and her son Mohamad will be marching as part of the Swiber contingent at this year's NDP.
Ms Maslinda and her son Mohamad will be marching as part of the Swiber contingent at this year's NDP.ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM
As parade commander, LTC Poon will be in charge of more than 1,400 people from 31 military and civilian contingents. Ms Maslinda and her son Mohamad will be marching as part of the Swiber contingent at this year's NDP.
As parade commander, LTC Poon will be in charge of more than 1,400 people from 31 military and civilian contingents. ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM

Who says military parades are purely regimented affairs?

These are also events where birthdays are celebrated, mother- child bonding is tightened and fascinating stories abound of people from diverse backgrounds coming together in a show of solidarity.

Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Poon Des-Mon, 41, a fighter pilot, will take these people under his wings as parade commander at this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

LTC Poon, whose awards include the Officer Cadet School's Sword of Honour and the Singapore Armed Forces' Good Conduct Award, said he is "honoured and privileged to be given an opportunity to play a distinct role in celebrating our nation's 51st birthday".

He will be commanding more than 1,400 people from 31 military and civilian contingents.

Among them will be ME4 Toh Xuan Ting, 31, the first female colours ensign in the NDP's history, who will bear the regimental colours of the Medical Corps. She has built up the upper body strength and core muscles vital for the dipping of the colours on to the ground.

Among the civilians, Ms Maslinda Kasdi, 45, from the contingent fielded by offshore and gas company Swiber has cajoled her son, Mohamad Nazrul Mohamad Zaini, 17, into taking part despite his O levels this year, because "it's his dream to be in this part of the event".

In this year's parade, as in 2011, the crowd will feel the atmosphere up close at the end as many of the participants - aged 13 to 71 - march up the aisles of the spectator stands on their way out.

The parade regimental sergeant- major, Master Warrant Officer Dennis Chia, is responsible for choreographing the parade and ensuring that the drills are synchronised.

Since late April, he has been honing the contingents' precision skills in four-hour rehearsals on Saturdays at Nee Soon Camp. He said: "When we plan the training programmes for them we take into consideration their physical condition so that we'll not overtax them."

The parade will be a grand experience for first-time participant Nuur Diyaanah Mohd Effendi, who competed with candidates from across Singapore to be selected for the Girl Guides contingent.

"All of my friends are excited because I am part of the contingent, but some of them really wanted me to go out on my birthday," said the 15-year-old, who turns 16 on National Day. Asked if she is planning on a party after the parade, her response was just one word: "Sleep!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'The many strands of Singapore's well-woven tapestry'. Print Edition | Subscribe