NS50 tribute song resonates with many who have served

Members of the Singapore Pocket Opera Theatre perform the song Did You Ever Wonder Why.ST VIDEO: LIM MIN ZHANG

SINGAPORE - "From my father's time till now / for generations still to come / Forevermore, we'll be a part / a part of Singapore".

These lyrics, from the National Service 50 (NS50) tribute song, resonate with the president of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation Douglas Foo, as he has four sons, the eldest of whom will be enlisting in national service (NS) next year.

"The most important message I learnt and want my sons to get from NS is that the needs of the individual are secondary to those of the nation," said Mr Foo, 48, who is also chairman of Sakae Holdings.

The NS50 tribute song, Did You Ever Wonder Why, was sung on Friday (June 30) at the Singapore Armed Forces Combined Rededication Ceremony for the East Zone.

The three-minute song was commissioned by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and composed by Eric Watson, the composer-in-residence of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

It was performed by nine musicians from the music ensemble Singapore Pocket Opera Theatre, including Watson on keyboards and three vocalists.

More than 500 national servicemen, staff and management from more than 100 companies participated in the event held at Singapore Institute of Technology near Clementi.

When Mr Foo's son Donovan, 17, enlists next year, he will be able to express his preference for his vocation.

But Mr Foo said that while it is a good move that pre-enlistees can express their interest, he wants his son to keep in mind the ultimate purpose of national service, if he does not get his preferred vocation in cyber security.

"I am excited for this new phase of life and sacred passage for him, but I hope he also learns how national service is still ultimately about the sovereignty of the nation, not for personal development."

At the event, Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say delivered the SAF Day message, and joined in the recitation of the SAF pledge and singing of the national anthem, along with chief of army, Major-General Melvyn Ong.

Singapore celebrates 50 years of national service this year. The theme of the anniversary is From My Generation To Yours.

Those who have supported soldiers in their service, at home or at work, were not forgotten.

Mr Foo said: "(We should not) forget our employers and our families for the support to us NSmen. Indeed, without their support, we would not be able to focus on our training and operational duties."

Mr Eric Watson, composer of the song Did You Ever Wonder Why, commissioned by SMF in tribute to NS50. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Composer Watson, who wrote the lyrics and music for the tribute song, said: "The song is a distillation of all the experiences I've heard from national servicemen and their families over the years."

Watson, 70, first came to Singapore from Britain in 1990. The song took about three weeks to write, but Watson, a Singapore permanent resident, said it was a difficult process, as he really wanted to get across the sense of pride in serving that he found among operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).

NSman Harman Salime, 35, said that the lyrics which mentioned Pulau Tekong were a "trigger" that brought back memories of his recruit days.

"Recruit days were the best. Basic Military Training (BMT) is something that everyone will go through, and the bonds with my BMT-mates were the strongest," said Mr Harman.

Secretary-general of SMF, Mr Lam Joon Khoi, an armour officer, said that the song spoke volumes about the contribution and effort of servicemen.

"I hope that when my sons hear this song, they will realise that NS is a lifelong commitment, through many generations."