The Straits Times says

Valuing those who protect nation

The introduction of a scheme to provide fully subsidised insurance coverage to both full-time and operationally ready national servicemen will reassure them and their families that state and society place great value on their welfare. From next month, the Defence Ministry and Home Affairs Ministry will provide life and personal accident insurance coverage worth $150,000 each during the servicemen's full-time national service or reservist duties. It is not that there was no protection for them earlier. Since 2009, the monthly allowance of NSmen has been increased by $20 to help pay for basic insurance coverage. The new joint scheme ensures they will not even have to draw down from this increment.

NSmen form the backbone of the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force that keep the country safe and secure. The young men who serve in these areas are exposed to some risk for the sake of national defence. It is only fair that appropriate insurance coverage is in place to alleviate the worry of upfront costs in the event of an accident. Of course, the availability of insurance does not reduce the fundamental attention that should be paid to the safety of all NSmen and regulars. This is an abiding need.

These men and women in uniform have the Committee to Strengthen National Service to thank for the recommendation on insurance. In a report that followed consultations with more than 40,000 people from all walks of life, the committee identified the expansion of community support as one of the ways to enhance the NS system. More is being done to recognise the support given by the families of NSmen, to boost community-led initiatives acknowledging the contributions of servicemen, and to raise public awareness of NS. Also proposed was an "NS Mark" to recognise companies with pro-NS policies and human resource practices. That award could be a factor for consideration when companies bid for Mindef/SAF and Home Team contracts. These are indeed concrete ways to celebrate the contributions of NSmen.

Ultimately, of course, gifts of gratitude will never fully reflect the larger value of NS. It is a precious institution that aligns SAF's mission of achieving Singapore's peace and security with the personal and collective values of the young. The trust and common understanding built among NSmen also flow into society, strengthening the whole as a result.

National service is a microcosm of a city-state's determination to preserve a unique way of life that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Cohort after cohort, NSmen carry on willing shoulders responsibilities that are essential to keep the nation safe from all threats. It is only right for the nation to honour their contributions in full measure.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Valuing those who protect nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe