Speech by Chairman of the Commemorative Book Editorial Committee COL (Ret) Lim Yeow Pheng at the Launch of "50 SAF Pioneers' Nostalgic March -- 9 Aug 2015" Book

Speech by Chairman of the Commemorative Book Editorial Committee COL (Ret) Lim Yeow Pheng at the Launch of "50 SAF Pioneers' Nostalgic March -- 9 Aug 2015" Book

Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Teo Chee Hean

SAF Pioneers


Ladies and Gentlemen

A very good evening and a very warm welcome to all of you.

On behalf of the 50 SAF Pioneers who took part in NDP 2015, thank you for being here with us this evening. A very special thank you to DPM Sir for taking time to celebrate with us. We are indeed very honoured by your presence.

If you look around, we are also heartened to have the presence of our Pioneer Chiefs – LG (Ret) Winston Choo, our first Chief of Defence Force; BG (Ret) Mike Teo from the Air Force; RADM (Ret) James Leo from the Navy; and some of our Combined Arms Chiefs. We have LTC (Ret) Seah Peng Yong, the father of Armour; COL (Ret) Raymond Tan who was Chief Infantry Officer; COL (Ret) Gurcharan Singh; LTC (Ret) Kwek Boon Yong from Artillery; and President of the SAF Veterans’ League BG (NS) Winston Toh, and many of our cohorts from the first few SAFTI batches. In particular, my second batch buddies, the third batch officers, the Armour, Commandos, Combat Service Support Command and of course, my Engineer buddies who have got four Chief Engineers with them. Many of you told me that you have not met in a long time, so I hope tonight will be a time for you to rekindle some fond memories of the good old days.

To our guests, many who were with us when we ran around Peng Kang Hill and Good Morning Hill – I am sure there are many stories to be told this evening. I hope tonight you can share these stories and take a lot of personal photographs. On a lighter note, I did also tell my photographers and video crew to be more careful of how they angle their cameras, because there is a lot of grey around here and a lot of reflective tops that will spoil their photos. Now you know why I am wearing the beret.

Significance of SG50

The vintage parade took place in an exceptional year in our country’s history – our Golden Jubilee. Thanks to former CDF LG (NS) Ng Chee Meng and Chairman of the NDP 2015 Executive Committee MG Melvyn Ong for thinking out of the box in creating such a Vintage parade. We, the 50 Lao Pengs, are humbled by the honour vested on us.

When you have the chance to flip through the pages of the book later this evening, from DPM's foreword, and the messages by few Generals and the President of SAF Veterans’ League, I think it is quite clear that on 9 August 2015, we were not marching alone.

DPM remarked in his foreword, "I joined the crowds who rose to their feet and cheered loudly as our Pioneers marched past". LG (Ret) Winston Choo said “When I watched and witnessed the 50 SAF Pioneers marching in front of City Hall’s grandstand, I could not help but feel a sense of pride and exhilaration. It was a defining moment in the history of the SAF”.

In our straight formation, from the corner of our eyes, we saw our Prime Minister, DPMs, the Cabinet Ministers and our fellow Singaporeans, waving their flags and cheering us on. To us, the nation was marching with us in spirit. So as Singapore was proud of us, we were also grateful, proud and humbled, all at the same time. If we are given another chance, perhaps SG75, we would like to ride on a tank, because our nationalistic spirit is there but our legs may not be able to take it.

Why This Commemorative Book

So some of you ask – why this commemorative book?

Over 16 weekends since April 2015, we formed up to rehearse. The servicemen among us will be familiar that we "hurry up and wait" because the National Day Parade mobilised a lot of organisations and you cannot get 200 buses at the same place, at the same time. So while we slept away our waiting time when we were younger, we have also progressed and are now able to use our time more constructively.

The waiting time gave us – the 50 veterans – a lot of time for reflection. First Warrant Officer Haniffa and I were even able to each pen a song to speak of the strong camaraderie we share. We took thousands of photographs, and we then collectively decided that we should put together a simple pictorial book to document this journey. A book for our children and our children’s children and the future generations, so that they would know how we helped build the SAF, our nation, and how our lives and dedication to the SAF contributed to our Singapore story.

So we began this journey – from a simple concept of a simple pictorial book, piecing together some pictures as a memorable piece of document. We then looked at the bigger picture and decided to try for a sponsor for our book, so that we could use this book as a motivation piece. When I got the opportunity to bring up the subject of this book to Temasek Holdings, they said, “Please proceed”. Their support pushed us forward in creating a more comprehensive book. So with the support of the Trailblazer Foundation, we went full steam ahead.

And so we did, we got cracking, taking time out of our “busy” retired schedules. Our direction was simple. We wanted a pictorial book with lots of photographs and less text. We agreed that this must be the direction. Let the pictures and the pioneers tell the stories.

In the last 10 months, we developed a 212-page pictorial book. This commemorative book comprises the 50 Lao Pengs’ contributions about their life stories and careers. It is indeed rewarding and satisfying to see our final product. But, believe me, it was not easy to coordinate 50 hardcore, die-hard, and dedicated loyal veterans. It was a grinding task actually.

However, with our pioneering spirit, we navigated our way through. So in these pages, besides the many activities that took place in SG50, you will also see snippets of the SAF even before SAFTI was formed, features on the tri-service, and ST Engineering’s contributions since our build-up in the 60s. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I hope you will enjoy reading this book and the memories of our adventures that it brings with it.

But we did not stop there with the book.

Pioneers Giving Back

In this journey, we got to learn about an initiative by MINDEF and the SAF Veterans’ League, called the Commitment to Defence (C2D) Ambassadors Programme. This programme appoints suitable SAF Veterans and NSmen to share their personal SAF stories and impart core values to SAF servicemen and students. So while our memories are still working from our Pentium 4 system, one of our objectives will be to share our experiences with the younger generation.

From stories about SAF operations during the Potong Pasir flood, Operation Thunderstorm, the 1983 Singapore Cable Car incident, SQ117 hijack, to significant milestones in the formative years of the SAF, and many, many more – some of us pioneers are now going to be appointed as C2D Ambassadors.

We will go to SAF units and MOE schools to further impart our knowledge and experiences – stories of grit, resilience, courage, adventures, brotherhood, love for nation, and the list goes on. So my fellow Pioneers who are here tonight, I encourage you to join the C2D Ambassadors Programme and share your stories. This is not marketing!

We also wanted to do and give back a little more, since the SAF was – to most of us – our main benefactor in terms of character building, discipline, planning and organisation, and the ever-engaging ‘Appreciation Of Situation’, where we frequently apply in the civvy street.

We pooled our efforts to raise funds for the SAF Care Fund, a fund that is dedicated to our wounded servicemen. One of our Navy servicemen who is a benefactor of this fund, Jason Chee, is here with us tonight. You would have heard of Jason’s story due to an unfortunate ship accident in 2012. Jason overcame the odds and is now proudly representing Singapore as a Team Singapore athlete in table tennis, winning everyone over with his passion and determination in living life to the fullest. Thank you Jason, you are an inspiration to many of us, especially the younger ones.

Ladies and gentlemen, with your support in attending tonight’s launch and dinner, and our 15 sponsors including an anonymous sponsor who contributed significantly, I am happy to share that we raised $100,000 for the SAF Care Fund.

When this fund is presented, MINDEF will further match our funds raised, dollar for dollar. In total, we would have helped contribute to the fund by two hundred thousand dollars. We are very thankful to each and every one of you. Your generosity will make a difference to the lives of our wounded servicemen. At the back of my mind, I think we should aim to do this for the next 50 years - towards SG100.


Finally, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you for making time to be with us this evening.

To my Book Committee, especially Boon Chai and the three service arms coordinators – Ron Chia, Frank Chang, Haniffa and Derek. To the accounting team of Albel, Arthur and Amasha; to Hua Cheow and Mukthia in helping to raise funds, and to Amasha, Phillip and Adrian who put together the slide show. Tiger Hong and Wahab for organising the security and march-in, the dinner and book launch committee Wai Tong and Sardar Ali, and to Kirby and his band of musicians Derreck McCullery and the Tornadoes, Winston Koh and Tina, for providing us with beautiful entertainment tonight. And to all who contributed in one way or another to put together this event.

And to the 50 veterans whom I have had the honour to march alongside on 9 August 2015 – thank you for working so closely with the Committee to make this book a reality. I know that each photo was carefully chosen, and they hold many precious memories. So I hope that all of you and our SAF buddies here, will continue to share your stories with your families: children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren; and friends, so that these stories continue to be part of the lives of our future generations, and we hope that they can be inspired by this legacy that we will one day have to leave behind.

Finally, may I request for all the 50 Lao Pengs, commonly referred as the 50 chopsticks brothers who bind together with one heart, to stand up and take a bow. This night is your night.

Thank you.

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