Since childhood, I have always been more interested in sports and extracurricular activities than in academics. I was fascinated by the armed forces, and being an NCC cadet gave me a great sense of pride and joy. The discipline, the love for rifle shooting, and the Republic Day parade in our town, which was the most looked forward to event every year as a cadet, all contributed to this.
Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Ladakh on a bike trip. One of the most memorable experiences of my trip was visiting the War Memorial for the Indian Army there. As I listened to the stories of valour and courage, it brought unexplainable deep emotions of pride and gratitude for all the army persons who fight for the country.
As I walked through the War Memorial, the guide narrated stories of our officers and jawans, the accounts of valour of several historic clashes like the Kargil war, the blood-chilling experiences they had encountered during their tenure in Siachen, the adverse climatic conditions, the ever lurking perils of falling into crevices, which all of us might have truly understood from the news about the recent rescue operation that saved the mountaineer Anurag Maloo from the crevasse on Annapurna. All of these stories left me feeling incredibly humbled and tears streamed down my face uncontrollably.
It was an emotional experience, but it also filled me with a renewed sense of respect and gratitude for our armed forces. It is because of their bravery and sacrifices that we can live our lives in peace and security. They are the ones who keep us safe from harm, be it at the border or during national emergencies or natural calamities and we should never forget the sacrifices that they make for us. I had thought that I was being a brave person just riding the mountains on my bike, but these stories made me question myself. What was I doing for my country? How could I make my existence matter? Suddenly, all my problems seemed trivial and irrelevant in the face of the sacrifices and bravery of the soldiers who had fought for our country.
Recently I read the book - India’s Most Fearless 3 by Shiv Aroor & Rahul Singh. A must read for every Indian. One story that particularly touched me was the very first one on ‘The Galwan Clash of June 2020’, of Naik Deepak, who not only served the Indian soldiers but also tended to the wounds of the enemy. It was a true testament to his selflessness and dedication to duty, even in the most trying of circumstances.
But this morning as I read the story of his widow, Rekha Naik, who didn't let her grief overwhelm her when her husband was martyred and instead started training to be an army officer herself, I was in awe of her unwavering dedication to the country despite having lost her husband. As I read about her being commissioned into the Indian Army as an officer today and being posted to a frontline base along the LoAC in eastern Ladakh, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of pride and admiration. Her determination and commitment to serving the country are a true inspiration, not just to me, but to everyone who reads her story. I salute her.
It's because of people like Naik Deepak and Rekha Naik that we can sleep soundly at night, knowing that our country is being protected by brave soldiers who are willing to lay down their lives for it. Their sacrifices and the sacrifices of all the soldiers who have served before them are what make our country strong and proud. As I left the War Memorial that day, I made a promise to myself that I would never forget the stories that I had heard. It was a humbling experience, but one that I will always cherish.