SINGAPORE - When his two-year-old son was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in September last year, Mr Khairul Ruzaini Jasmani, 31, was on the second day of his in-camp training (ICT) scheduled to last two weeks.
An operationally-ready national serviceman (NSman) in an army infantry unit, his first instinct was to ask if he could defer his training to help out at home, but his wife, Madam Nur Kamilah Abdul Rahman, dissuaded him from doing so.
The 31-year-old told him she would take unpaid leave from her job. She is a senior teacher at SGM Little KiDZ, a childcare centre in Rivervale Drive.
"My husband is very passionate about his army days, so I know how much this ICT means to him. I didn't want to disturb him, and wanted him to serve it with peace of mind," she told reporters on Tuesday (Nov 24).
Having to take care of her son who was ill and a younger daughter was not easy, said Madam Kamilah, but she managed with her mother's help.
Her husband also called her at night after his training to check on the family.
The couple have been married for four years. They have two children, three and one, and are expecting a third.
In recognition of Madam Kamilah's exemplary support towards Total Defence and national service, she was presented with this year's National Service Advocate Award.
A total of 148 awards were presented to 91 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 34 large companies, 15 organisations and eight individuals this year. The winners were recognised at a virtual ceremony held on Wednesday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said small countries with limited resources like Singapore must prepare for unexpected security threats.
"I can only say that we must prepare for the worst only to hope for the best. And Total Defence is a big part of that preparation."
When the Total Defence framework was launched in 1984, it was still a concept and an unproven one - an attempt to galvanise Singaporeans to come together to protect one another and the country, he noted.
"Today, it is a living ideal, where Singaporeans will marshal their own resources and of others, and collectively give of themselves to the defence foundation," he said, adding that this was seen in the fight against Covid-19.
Frontline workers from all walks of life, including from the Singapore Armed Forces, braved the risks to take care of the infected and contain the disease's spread.
Defence scientists and engineers also worked long hours to produce diagnostic kits and better systems for treatment and contact tracing, said Dr Ng.
Companies like Air Liquide Singapore - also an NS Advocate Award recipient - increased supplies of medical oxygen and equipment to treat Covid-19 patients, he added.
Another SME recipient was Dr Kenneth Tong, a partner at the Animal and Avian Veterinary Clinic.
The NSman is the chief veterinary officer at the police K-9 unit.
The 40-year-old encourages the four NSmen at his clinic, which has 12 staff, not to defer their reservist commitments.
He also tells them not to worry about having colleagues cover their duties, reassuring them that their performance appraisal will also not be affected.
"We do not want them to defer, in fact if they broach the subject of deferment I would give them a thousand and one reasons why they shouldn't," said Dr Tong, who believes that everyone plays a role in Total Defence.
"No matter how small the company is, even if it's just two people, it will make a difference. It's a small ripple that causes a bigger effect."