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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Honouring those who protect us - 2011 the year of......... : Salute our Army

Do you know how the present year 2011 is observed especially by Indian army ?

In Indian mythology, Nachiketas  is the child protagonist whose story is detailed in the Katha Upanishad. He  is believed to have been  taught Self-knowledge, the separation of the human soul (the supreme Self) from the body, by the god of Death, Yama. Nachiketa is noted for his rejection of material desires which are effervescent, and for his single-minded pursuit of the path of realising  Moksha i.e. emancipation of the soul from rebirth. The name Nachiketa, (na chiketas, that which is unperceived) "refers to the quickening Spirit that lies within all things like fire, latent in wood, the spirit that gives.  Nachiketas was a son of the sage Vājashravasa  famed for donations.

There are reports of the honour a young Marine received from the President of US.  Marines are Marine Corps.   United States Marine Corps (USMC) is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States.   On 15th Sept 2011,  President Barack Obama draped the pale blue ribbon suspending the Medal of Honor around the neck of Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer, the first living Marine to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.   He is the first living Marine to recieve the award for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overall, he is the 10th recipient — and the third living — of the Medal of Honor for the two wars. Meyer, who has left the active Marine Corps, and is a sergeant in the Inactive Reserve, is the 298th Marine ever to have received the medal, created during the Civil War. The nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor is awarded for risk of life in combat beyond the call of duty.

“It’s been said that where there is a brave man, in the thickest of the fight, there is the post of honor,” the commander in chief said. “Today we pay tribute to an American who placed himself in the thick of the fight again, and again, and again.”  Obama said Meyer, who is now 23 and was just 21 that day in Afghanistan, is “one of the most down-to-earth guys you will ever meet.”  Press reports state that when the president’s staff called the young Marine so the commander in chief could officially notify him of the medal,  Meyer was at work on his new civilian job at a construction site.  He reportedly could not take the call right then stating that if he does not work, he does not get paid.  So the President and his men arranged to make sure that he received the call during his lunch break !!

In the medal ceremony, Obama  turned to the events of Sept. 8, 2009, the day Meyer earned the medal as a corporal serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar province, Afghanistan.  Defying orders, Meyer repeatedly got out of the Humvee to help Afghan troops, many wounded, inside the vehicle and back to safety. Obama said while he knows Meyer has thought of himself as a failure because some of his teammates didn’t come home, “as your commander in chief, and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it’s quite the opposite.” “Because of your honor, 36 men are alive today,” the president said. “Because of your courage, four fallen American heroes came home, and in the words of James Layton’s mom, [their families] could lay their sons to rest with dignity.”

Meyer’s father, Mike, grandparents, and more than a hundred friends and family members attended today’s ceremony.  Because of Meyer’s humble example, children all across America will know that “no matter who you are or where you come from, you can do great things as a citizen and a member of the American family,” the president said.  Just before the citation reading and medal presentation, Obama said, “Every member of our team is as important as the other – that’s a lesson that we all have to remember, as citizens and as a nation, as we meet the tests of our time here at home and around the world. To our Marines, to all our men and women in uniform, to our fellow Americans, let us always be faithful.”

In an interview with NBC News, Sgt Meyer denied he was a hero. "I'm the furthest thing from a hero," he said. "Every man and woman who serves is a hero."  Newspaper reports also state that during a call with the president’s staff in preparation for Thursday’s ceremony, Meyer asked if he could have a beer with the president. When the  Obama heard about the request, he invited Meyer to stop by.  On the eve of the official ceremony, Sgt Meyer and  Obama chatted informally one-to-one over a beer on a patio outside the Oval Office, at the Marine's request.  Sgt Meyer, appearing on CBS's The Early Show ahead of the ceremony, said he took the opportunity to ask the president what he thinks it takes to be successful.  "You know, first thing, get an education and just take it slow and don't try to make any rash decisions," he said Mr Obama told him.

The immediate thoughts that occur on reading the above,  is to appreciate the Americans for the way they honour their war heroes.  The natural corollary of thought that follows is ‘Do we honour our heroes in any similar manner and can we ever imagine a solider being able to meet the top Executive in the Indian democracy ? 

We must know the exploits and the real life story of 
                     Flt Lt K Nachiketa. 

Nachiketa with  Indian PMAtal Bihari Vajpayee (At right with his mother)

This young solider Nachiketa was the pilot  on a sortie on MIG 27 fighter jet which went down in Kargil sector in 1999.  He was captured and subjected to torture by the Pak.  He remained in captivity for 80 days but nothing could dampen his spirits.  Eventually he walked in to the arms of Indian authorities at Wagah check post in June 1999.  Immediately, he quipped in a voice choked in emotion,  that he is ready for the next sortie.  He is reported to have said -  "I am not a hero, but a soldier. Every soldier in Kargil would have done just what I did."   He  arrived  in New Delhi and was welcomed by his relieved parents and the air force chief, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis.  Nachiketa later met with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at his official residence.

Honouring its troops who were severely injured and left disabled in military operations, the Indian Army  decided to observe 2011 as the 'Year of the Disabled Soldier'.     The Army Chief   General V K Singh had said while addressing the 63rd Army Day parade  that “We have been giving great respect to our martyred soldiers and the time has come to give due honour to our soldiers who have been disabled in operations. For this, 2011 will be the year of the disabled soldier,”

A Nation must remember and honour its heroes who save the Nation and it is indeed inspiring to read such tales. 

With regards
S. Sampathkumar

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