900 bid farewell to late NSF in military funeral

Pallbearers carrying the coffin of full-time national serviceman Dave Lee Han Xuan into the service hall at Mandai Crematorium. CFC Lee died last Monday, nearly two weeks after being admitted to hospital for heatstroke.
Pallbearers carrying the coffin of full-time national serviceman Dave Lee Han Xuan into the service hall at Mandai Crematorium. CFC Lee died last Monday, nearly two weeks after being admitted to hospital for heatstroke.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Left: Madam Jasmine Yeo and Mr Dennis Lee - the parents of CFC Lee (above) - being consoled just before the cortege left the family home for Mandai Crematorium yesterday afternoon.
Above: Madam Jasmine Yeo and Mr Dennis Lee - the parents of CFC Lee - being consoled just before the cortege left the family home for Mandai Crematorium yesterday afternoon.
Pallbearers carrying the coffin of full-time national serviceman Dave Lee Han Xuan into the service hall at Mandai Crematorium. CFC Lee died last Monday, nearly two weeks after being admitted to hospital for heatstroke.
Madam Jasmine Yeo and Mr Dennis Lee - the parents of CFC Lee (above) - being consoled just before the cortege left the family home for Mandai Crematorium yesterday afternoon.

Family, friends, army personnel in final send-off for heatstroke victim

The mother of the late full-time national serviceman (NSF) Dave Lee Han Xuan had often imagined what it would be like to give a speech about her son at his wedding.

"(Little) did I know I would be delivering Dave's (speech) in this manner," said Madam Jasmine Yeo yesterday afternoon.

In a packed service hall in Mandai Crematorium, 200 family members and friends and 700 military personnel gathered to say their final farewell.

Corporal First Class Lee, 19, died last Monday, close to two weeks after being admitted to Changi General Hospital for heatstroke.

The national serviceman had enlisted on Jan 5 and completed his Basic Military Training on March 11. He had just completed an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on April 18 when he displayed signs of heat injury, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) had said.

He later received a posthumous promotion from private to corporal first class.

HONEST AND FAIR INQUIRY

We will ask honest questions of ourselves... Equally important, trust that our Army will be fair.

CHIEF OF ARMY GOH SI HOU, in a letter to the army assuring soldiers it would find out what happened and fix any shortcomings.

Mindef said a Committee of Inquiry has been convened to look into his death, while police investigations are also ongoing.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said: "We grieve together with his family and give our deepest condolences. We pray for their comfort and healing."

CFC Lee, who was from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, was given a military funeral, which included the firing of three shots at the end of the service. Chief of Guards Officer Seet Uei Lim also presented his family with the state flag, his beret and other accoutrements.

Separately, Chief of Army Goh Si Hou addressed rumours and speculation about how CFC Lee had died, and assured soldiers, in a letter to the army dated May 3, that it would find out what happened and fix any shortcomings.

"We will ask honest questions of ourselves... Equally important, trust that our Army will be fair," he said of the Mindef inquiry.

Brigadier-General Goh said the army was "focused on uncovering lapses and shortcomings in our system, especially so in the prevention and management of heat injuries".

He said the army would hold a command call next week, to share initial findings and immediate measures it is taking.

But he said the army safety system is not broken, or "we would not be able to take civilian soldiers and train thousands of NSFs and NSmen every year, and still manage the inherent risks of military activities".

In her eulogy, CFC Lee's mother said that her son's death calls for the training regime to be reformed. "Heatstroke kills, so put (in place) all possible measures to counter it. It is not to be taken lightly."

She also urged commanders not to forget that "your mission is to train soldiers against enemies and, most importantly, for them to return home safe and sound to their loved ones".

She told her son's comrades not to "be sad after today", but to assure their parents by ensuring their own safety during training, and texting their parents regularly.

Addressing her son, Madam Yeo said: "The moments we've shared in your 19 years will remain unforgettable."

Four others gave a eulogy at the military funeral: Yuhua Secondary classmate Andrez Lee, Jurong Junior College classmate Lim Le Ming, Basic Military Training platoon mate Ronald Tan, and Major Danny Poh, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion Singapore Guards.

Together, they painted a picture of a loyal friend who was the life of the party, a hard worker always willing to lend a helping hand, and a soldier who could be counted on to lift the spirits of others.

Mr Lim shared their unfulfilled plans, including the holiday they were going to take together next year after completing national service.

Major Poh said CFC Lee struck him as someone who lived courageously, constantly strove to do his best and always had his friends' backs - all marks of a good soldier.

But what had the greatest impact of all was his strong sense of filial piety. "Family was Dave's centre of gravity," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 06, 2018, with the headline '900 bid farewell to late NSF in military funeral'. Print Edition | Subscribe