All of Singapore feel they lost a son when full-time national serviceman Dave Lee Han Xuan died after having been warded for heatstroke after training. Of course, no amount of public sympathy can ease the pain of his parents and the feeling of loss by others who knew him personally. The 19-year-old died not in war, but in peacetime training that all servicemen go through in preparation for any eventuality the country may face.
National service is the highest form of service to the nation, and clearly, what led to his death must be investigated with a thoroughness that reflects the weight and importance that is attached to national service itself. Parents send their sons into military, police or civil defence training in an implicit compact of trust with the state. Just as the young men commit themselves to serving and protecting the nation, the state commits itself to protecting them. When a tragedy occurs, it befalls not just the immediate family but impacts the national family. The public disquiet created by the young man's death, expressions of concern and calls for answers to questions is natural and understandable. Singaporeans must be commended for their spontaneous reaction to the tragedy. It shows that they care personally and intensely for the fate of one of their own.
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