Salute to the men in uniform.

The recent few days have been full of messages about the shabby send off to one of India’s genuine heroes, Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw. There has also been considerable noise that has been raised consequent to the announcement of the fifth pay commission recommendations. In this scenario, some of my friends from the armed forces, retired now from active service, have been feeding me with a lot of inspiring information.

One such is from a friend who is a retired Officer of the Indian Army, which is reproduced below.

“THE FINAL INSPECTION

The Soldier stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘No, my Lord, I ain’t.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.

I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a dollar,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.’
– Author Unknown~

It’s the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It’s the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It’s the Soldier, not the politician, that ensures our right to Life, Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness.
It’s the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for our Armed Services Men & Women, please pass this on and pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”

I shared this message with a number of my friends and relatives, and one of the latter, a cousin, retired Officer of the Indian Air force sent me this message.

Can I add an anecdote from my brief stint in uniform ?
During the 1965 war with Pakistan, my squadron used to fly early morning bombing raids on enemy targets.When I say early morning, the aircraft will be over the enemy territory ‘at first light’ as the jargon goes.

Each sortie will be in a box of four. In one such sortie my Commanding Officer was the leader. The bombing and strafing raid was accomplished against stiff enemy fire and our aircraft were hit. They were limping back to Ambala Air Base with my C.O.’s aircraft given priority landing since his tail section was on fire.

When he was on approach, his wingman called out ‘ hydraulic failure’. He managed to lower the under carriage by manual action ( there was such a provision) but hardly had any oil pressure for braking.

My C.O. took off allowing his wingman priority to land. That aircraft landed with very little braking, but the aircraft was saved by the arresting net at the end of the runway. The ATC called out to my C.O. that his tail section fire was increasing and he should climb and eject. My C.O. refused to heed that well meant advice and instead came back on a wide circuit to land with the tail section blazing just to be able to save the aircraft and he did that.

And can you believe it? The whole tail section was cannibalized from another damaged aircraft and replaced within a few hours and who flew the next sortie ? It was the same brave pilot.

I was privileged to serve under him for more than two and a half years of my stay in Ambala.

Bravo our men in uniform.

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