Military Expert 2 (ME2) Muhammad Khairunnizam Amran's decade-long involvement in National Day Parades 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 at 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 scaled-down 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 yesterday and several newly added features were showcased in recognition of the unprecedented times in which the show is taking place.
Apart from the special salute in appreciation of front-line workers, the presidential gun salute will also 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 NDP 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 farther apart.
Unlike past years where they were about half a metre apart from one another, this gap will be doubled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Ong, the parade commander this year, said that compared with 38 marching contingents last year, NDP2020 will have only four as any more "will be too big for the Padang with safe distancing (measures)".
He will be shouting parade commands through a mask, which requires cosmetic tape 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 commands."
On the importance of having the NDP in a year of crisis, he said: "We don't just commemorate the nation's 55 years of independence, but also show our respect to front-line fighters and unsung heroes, as well as Singaporeans who perform essential services."
Red Lions bring cheer to heartland
Red Lions parachute team members waving to the crowd after landing at a grass patch in Toh Guan Road during the National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsal yesterday. As the Red Lions glided through the air, people in Jurong East and Sengkang cheered and clapped, as they were treated to smooth landings from six of the Singapore Army's parachutists at each of the two sites. The skydive manoeuvre - a crowd-pleaser at every NDP - will take place over the heartland in this year's celebrations, which have had to be modified due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Red Lions will land at grass fields near Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital, in a tribute to front-line fighters against Covid-19.