Women and other stakeholders like employers play a part in ensuring Singapore's defence through their support of national service (NS), said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, as she shared her fears when her older son suffered an injury during NS.
Madam Halimah, a mother of five including two sons aged 34 and 32, said her son has a hearing impairment. The problem was detected after he had completed his NS, and the doctor cited his NS stint as a probable cause.
"As a mother, I was of course very concerned, but it's not possible to completely insulate our sons from accidents or injuries during their NS stint no matter how perfect the system is," she told The Straits Times.
"The most that we could do is to ask them to be careful and to hope that there are proper procedures in place to prevent injuries. But they still need to fulfil their duty to the nation and they cannot let down their colleagues."
Madam Halimah, an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, revealed her son's injury when she spoke to the media at a grassroots event yesterday in Woodlands, where she gave out recognition packages of $100 vouchers to NS personnel to mark 50 years of NS.
Even if women don't serve NS, because opinions are quite divided on that, they can give their support and encouragement when family members go for NS.
MADAM HALIMAH YACOB, Speaker of Parliament.
She also told reporters that NS50 is not just about servicemen past and present, but also about the families and employers who have shown support and understanding to those serving the nation.
"Even if women don't serve NS, because opinions are quite divided on that, they can give their support and encouragement when family members go for NS," she added.
At the event, close to 200 residents, including NSmen and their families, came together to enjoy a breakfast of nasi lemak.
Co-organised by the Marsiling Citizens Consultative Committee, Marsiling Women's Executive Committee and Marsiling Zone Six Residents' Committee, the event was held to mark NS50 and to celebrate Mother's Day on May 14.
Madam Halimah also distributed balloon flower bouquets to mothers present and took part in a Mother's Day cake-cutting ceremony.
In her speech, she noted that socio-economic growth and development was not possible without a strong defence, especially for a small country.
"We don't have gold, we don't have oil, but we defend the lives of our people. We defend not just the past or present, but the future that is our children and grandchildren," she added.
Madam Halimah yesterday also presented commemorative NS50 PAssion five-year membership cards by the People's Association to 17 pairs of father-and-son NSmen.
Among them were undergraduate Jerry Toh, 27, and his father Toh Hong Hua, 64.
The younger Mr Toh said that during his full-time NS stint, he received advice from his father, while his mother supported him in her "own little ways".
"Whenever I booked out, my sister would comment that there were more dishes on the dinner table that night. That's how my mother always welcomed me home," he said.
Grassroots leader Abdullah Ali, 68, who was from the pioneer batch of conscripts in 1967, also spoke of the changes in NS over the years.
He said: "National service now is very different from my time. But one thing that will not change is the commitment to serve and defend our country."