It is tough to convince the younger generation of the sacrifices of the soldiers today, especially when patriotic values are declining.
KUALA LUMPUR: There is a famous saying that old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.
However, in Malaysia the sacrifices and the contribution of the soldiers too are literally fading away from the hearts of its citizens.
And after 55 years of independence, the country’s soldiers lament that they are only remembered during Warriors’ Day and National Day celebration each year.
Deep in their conscience, Malaysians have to ask themselves just how many among them appreciate and honour the sacrifices of the country’s soldiers?
Many in the society remain in the dark over the sacrifices of the armed forces and their role at present.
Against the backdrop of declining patriotic values of the younger generation who have no emotional attachment even with the National Day, it is tough to convince them of the armed forces’ contribution today.
For most people they can only recall the meaningful role of the armed forces during the pre-Merdeka years, especially during the Emergency, but are unsure of their role after the Communist threat ended.
Today, Malaysia is a harmonious and prosperous nation and therefore most feel the armed forces have no meaningful or compelling role to play.
Malaysians seem not only to have taken for granted the status quo but do not seem to appreciate the crucial role of the men in uniform and their legacy.
As for the average man in the street, the members of the armed forces add colour to the parades, mount guard of honour for foreign dignitaries visiting the country and on-and off participate in operations to help civilians during disasters.
Nonetheless, just how many citizens see that the peace, harmony and prosperity that they are enjoying today are the result of the sacrifices of the soldiers at the frontline?
First line of defence
Even today the soldiers have to leave behind their families, travel far and stay awake day and night, this time to preserve the independence that we have been enjoying over the last 55 years.
“We have achieved independence, there has been no internal strife but that does not mean there will not be external threats,” noted the Corporate Communication Unit Head for the Armed Forces Ex-servicemen Affairs Corporation (Perhebat) Major Rosli (Rtd) Mohd Yazid.
“We have to realise that the armed forces still serve as the first line of defence against external threats. It is a fallacy to think that the armed forces only have a role during wars.
“It is wrong to think that the armed forces are not important because external threats including re-colonisation can crop up anytime. That is why we have to keep up the pace with other nations in aspects of national defence,” he said to Bernama.
The armed forces – air force, navy and the army – are indispensible in maintaining security at our borders and keeping in check smuggling and other criminal activities including human trafficking.
These pre-emptive measures are critical in maintaining peace and public order that in bigger picture contribute to national development and attract foreign investments.
Nevertheless, the subsequent generations after Merdeka have lived in relative peace and comfort and never have been through major security threats.
Therefore they could not appreciate the contribution of the armed forces at present.
Added with declining patriotic values, and the lack of knowledge or interest on the sacrifices of the armed forces, the younger generation of today in particular neither recognises nor appreciates the role of the armed forces.
Communist booby traps
This has demoralised members of the armed forces, especially the veterans involved in defending the country’s sovereignty before and after Merdeka.
People like Rosli, who had served with the army’s royal ranger division, lives to tell of the deadly encounters with the Communist.
Unlike 1957, the Communists were a real threat to Malaysia’s sovereignty in 1974.
Rosli recalled of the threats faced by his 35-member platoon and the poignant moments when platoon members fall victim to booby traps.
“When I joined the operations to take on the Communist in 1974, it was a tough calling especially when platoon members lost their life or were injured.
“I have seen myself the effect of the booby traps: some were maimed, others killed… and, thus when the younger generation fails to appreciate the peace and good life that they are enjoying today, I really feel hurt.
“I feel that our sacrifices all this while are not only being taken for granted but also being ridiculed,” said the major who retired in 1994.
The frustration is shared by Perhebat’s director of human resources and administration, Major (Rtd) Rosdin Mohammad.
He had fought against the Communist from 1983 until they surrendered in 1989, and it was an unforgettable experience that in fact enhanced his patriotic feelings for the country.
More like a fashion show
His experience serving as a peacekeeper in Bosnia under the United Nations also taught him to appreciate and maintain the peace enjoyed by the country.
“We have to appreciate the struggles of our forefathers who fought for the country’s independence. I have seen enough of the sufferings of the war victims.
“Though we have achieved independence, we still have to preserve the country’s sovereignty as threat can appear anytime and from anywhere like the Malaysia-Indonesia Confrontation in 1963,” he said.
“This is for those who are still alive. How about the hundreds who fell in valour in preserving the peace that we enjoy today?
However, it is unfair to put the blame solely on the younger generation for the current scenario.
The situation needs to be reversed and one of the effective ways in doing so is by making sure that the Merdeka celebration itineraries evoke patriotic fervour and show appreciation for the members of the armed forces.
“At times I feel that the Merdeka celebration appears more like a fashion show with the armed forces in the full costume taking part in the parades.
“Maybe the organisers want to highlight the deeds and sacrifices of the armed forces, but only people like me are in a better position to appreciate this, how about others? That is why I feel that the Merdeka celebration itineraries should be relooked into,” said Rosli.
Echoing Rosli’s sentiment, Ilyas and Rosdin, both felt that dramas or historical films on the contribution of the armed forces would be able to enhance the patriotic feeling and help the public appreciate the role of the armed forces.
Nonetheless, it all goes back to what we learn from young. The patriotic feelings should be inculcated constantly apart from appreciating the sacrifices of the armed forces throughout and not just before Merdeka.
Malaysians should never forget that peace and prosperity that they enjoy today is very much due to the sacrifices of the members of the armed forces.