“Here do I swear fealty and service to Singapore; in peace or war; in living or dying. From this hour henceforth, until my country releases me or the Lord take me.”
Dear Friends, my fellow countrymen and my brothers and sisters in Christ. I, Ryan Constantine Chong Jia Le have entered the service of the Republic of Singapore. I have sworn to protect the land that has been given to me and I also protect my loved ones and my other countrymen with my life. By serving my country, I serve the people of God. It has been two weeks since I enlisted into Mandatory National Service when all males at the age of 18 and above are conscripted and turned from carefree civilians into proud, vigilant soldiers; from sheltered boys into independent men.
Our prosperity and wealth of our island not only comes from our high economy. There are certain forces behind our carefree everyday lives. The people who maintain our safety and the sovereignity of our nation. They are the Singapore Armed Forces, who watch over our lands, sea and air. The reason why we are safe. Of course it is thankful that we have good diplomatic relations with our neighbours thanks to the late Mr LKY, but still it is necessary to maintain defence of the country both inside and outside between the boundaries of Singapore Territory. That is why National Service is not needed but still important for survival. To protect against all potential threats that might happen around the boundaries of Singapore. To protect the way of life of every Singaporean and the sovereign right of every Singaporean which is Freedom.
I did not choose to be a soldier, none of my section-mates, platoon-mates nor the men in my company (Ninja Coy) chose to be soldiers. We have been conscripted into National Service, and without a choice we serve. Is National Service really important? The training of Recruits into Battle Ready Soldiers. Would it be better if less time was wasted for Singaporean males to serve NS so as to focus on studying and further enhancing our economy as they join their respective work industries?
The opinions of all Singaporeans would be completely different. Some think that NS is important while others think it should be scrapped. Me? I would originally say that NS is not important but I also think that untrained soldiers would not fight effectively on the battlefield. We did not choose to be Soldiers, but Singapore has chosen us to be her protectors. Our Families, Friends and all other Singaporeans have called upon us to be the defenders of our beloved nation. If not, who will protect us in times of war, when an enemy army can just sweep through Singapore in a matter of half a day. For me personally, serving is to return to Singapore what she has given me in all the years of my life and what she continues to provide for all Singaporeans: Safety, Prosperity, Wealth, Freedom, Justice; a Bilingual nation where all live in peace and harmony.
So it has been two weeks of confinement period in Pulau Tekong BMTC (Basic Military Training Centre). I’ll be booking out on Thursday 30/4 to join my family again to spend time with them. To gaze upon our beloved City State, and to know that all of these are the reasons why I serve NS. To preserve and protect our way of life from any ilk who would try to take this peace away from us. The confinement period has been both a physical and spiritual exercise for me. It has been a good wake up for me spiritually. I have felt that I really re-evangelized through just the confinement and the training in these two weeks. Re-evangelization through Jesus’ own commandment: Love.
Love, true love. Yes…. I discovered true love as I wept for two days after my enlistment day on 16 April 2015. At first as I entered the camp, even after I had received my enlistment draft, thought I could cope by myself and that I could take care of myself. But it was certainly not the case. Now in camp, I have to wash and fold my own clothes, make my own bed, and keep myself clean and healthy. All these things back home were taken care of; a carefree life I have been having all these years. Discipline and Military Drills are familiar to me as I was in a marching symphonic band back in secondary school. Despite my fears of having to survive on my own or being punished by my commanders, I think of why I’m serving, and it is to protect my home and my loved ones.
I remember when my brother left Singapore to study for his Degree for Culinary Arts in Switzerland. Before he could walk through the departure gantry and after taking a final picture before he went through to the duty-free area, and after taking final photos, my brother started to weep. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry. I was about to tell him not to cry, as brave men do not weep. As we said our final goodbyes, he bade me farewell and only asked me to take good care of myself.
Back then, four weeks ago, I admit I was glad to have my “own room”. I still wondered in my mind about why he cried. He was really excited to leave for Switzerland; he had talked about it ever since he graduated from Shatec. And still as he left, he shed tears, tears that no one would expect him to do that. I began to do a self-examination and discovered the ugly truth. The truth being that I was too devoid of love to understand why my brother cried while leaving on an ambitious quest. Now I do understand. That it was because of love, and the thought of him going to Switzerland and leaving his family and friends behind back in Singapore.
And then in the two weeks of confinement term, I felt regret and extreme pain in my heart. Stinging pain that it was the realization of the true meaning of love in my heart. I re-evangelized then. Right now, most certainly I can say after the deepest thoughts, I have come to finally realize the vast ocean of love, hiding in this fist-sized heart of mine. The love of my Family, of my friends, brethren in the name of Christ and now my comrades & brothers in arms. The encompassing love poured out by the Spirit in all of God’s holy Flock. A people of God, a Priesthood of God, the Kingdom of God.
Everyday, I look out the fence of the Camp, look towards the Sea and gaze upon the beaches opposite the beaches of Tekong. The beaches of Singapore. The land of Singapore. Our sovereignty to defend against anyone who would attempt to steal our freedom from us.
My Home, my dearest Singapore. A small island that has always provided for me and Singaporeans with things both essential and things of luxury. A land that has always given me everything I could always ask for; it is time for me to return something to Singapore. It is time for me to serve.
In 2 days’ time, I am having my first book-out back to mainland Singapore. I will gaze upon her. My Motherland, my home. My Singapore which I will protect with my LIFE!