Every Defense Service unit has its own emblem which is etched on a memento given to its personnel when he gets posted out. Thus I have a wooden escutcheon given to my husband from his unit and I have displayed it in the drawing room. A youngster asked me when he saw it, ”Did they give this shield to uncle to fight in the war?” Well, it could only be the abysmal degree of awareness of a young mind. But the adult minds are no less when it comes to Services and their achievements.
The other day when I was discussing the recent honoring of the 1965 war heroes with someone, he gave a derisive laughter and said, ”Huh, that General? He has never ever seen war front. All that he would do was when someone kept everything ready he would just go there and inspect!”
Such statements sadly reflect the extent of general public’s knowledge about Defense Services. As one of the honored officers rued,” The awareness about Services in South India is very poor.”
Does the public think that every military personnel should be in the forefront fighting the enemy with guns, bayonets and kukris or dropping bombs from aircraft or ships? Do they expect a pilot to go to a foundry, manufacture a bomb, load it on to his aircraft serviced by himself and drop it on the enemy territory?
Who feeds the men? Who transports them? Who will equip them and maintain them? Who looks after their salaries and pensions? Who builds them bridges, schools, houses and messes? Who looks after their health? Unless all these auxiliary services work with the same discipline and dedication expected of the fighting arm, an army cannot be expected to do its job efficiently. For that matter even the woman who marries a service man cannot have the luxury of ringing up her husband in a panic and ask him to come home immediately like the one married to a civilian when her baby falls sick.
I remember a Tamil movie where the village believed that the ‘military’ man in their midst was a fighting one till it was discovered that he was ‘only a cook’ in a military mess, resulting in great mirth and derision. Why, do the cooks not accompany the army wherever it goes unlike civilian services such as Airlines and Railways which outsource their kitchens from 5 star hotels? Whereas a housewife back home kicks up a ruckus if the gas cylinder is delivered late, these people cook in all climates and conditions, faithfully providing the food for the men.
In that context I certainly commend the degree of awareness of a proud lady who used to say, ”My son-in law sees to the loading of the bombs on to the aircraft to be dropped later on the enemy”.
It is high time the public becomes aware that every cog in the vast machinery of Defense Services is equally important. Here I am reminded of an old poem by an unknown poet:
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost
For want of a horse, the battle was lost etc.
So, a General who just inspects the readiness of the equipment is as important as the personnel that use it.