SINGAPORE - Military Expert 2 (ME2) Muhammad Khairunnizam Amran's decade-long involvement in National Day Parades (NDP) will be marked with a special one on Aug 9 that is being held during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite smaller contingents, masks, safe distancing and shorter rehearsal times, the 36-year-old said it will be especially meaningful because front-line workers, including nurses, will receive a salute this year.
His wife has been taking care of Covid-19 patients as a nurse at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital for the past few months, and will watch the parade on television from home with their two children, aged nine and six.
"It is extra special. I have seen her sacrifice in her heavy involvement with Covid-19 efforts. This (NDP2020) lets me pay my compliments to her and show my admiration for her work," said the principal saxophonist with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) band.
ME2 Khairunnizam is one of about 200 contingent members from the SAF and the Singapore Police Force involved in the morning ceremonial parade at the Padang.
Usually held in the evening together with the more theatrical dance and song aspects, this year's NDP will be held as two separate segments, with the parade in the morning followed by an evening show at The Star Performing Arts Centre.
The first parade rehearsal that was observed by the media took place on Sunday (July 26) and several newly added features were showcased in recognition of the unprecedented times the show is now taking place in.
These include the special salute in appreciation of front-line workers and the presidential gun salute, which will be conducted at the Padang for the first time.
Another change - the raising of the state flag at the Padang will be timed to coincide with flag-raising ceremonies across the country to mark the event in the heartland areas.
The National Day Parade organising committee said it hopes the "simple but dignified" parade this year will allow the country to strike a defiant chord as Singapore continues to face down health and economic travails.
Parade regimental sergeant major David Ling said the idea is to ensure the parade remains "solemn, dignified, respectable".
"In the beginning it was rather challenging... But we went ahead to organise this parade to showcase Singapore's strength, unity and spirit," the 43-year-old master warrant officer said.
His role in maintaining the parade's formation this year will be especially onerous as participants are spaced further apart.
Unlike past years where they were about half a metre apart from each other, this gap will be doubled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
From 38 marching contingents last year, NDP2020 will also only have four as any more "will be too big for Padang with safe distancing (measures)", said Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Ong, the parade commander this year.
He will be shouting parade commands through a mask, which requires cosmetic tapes to keep in place.
On the unusual experience, the 38-year-old, who was selected for the role in April last year, said: "I tried on a few types of different masks. This mask I ended up with is very light and doesn't impede my shouting of command."
He added on the importance of having NDP in a year of crisis: "We don't just commemorate the nation's 55 years of independence, but also show our respect to front-line fighters, unsung heroes, as well as Singaporeans who perform essential services."