2nd Sergeant (2SG) (NS) Kelvin Chong always has someone behind his back. For her support, his wife Alicia Ng was recognised as one of this year's National Service (NS) Advocate Award winners.
For months, the Chong family had been looking forward to their year-end getaway. Flight tickets had been bought and itinerary planning for the 10-day trip to Nanjing, China was well under way.
Unexpectedly, 2SG (NS) Chong was called up for his one-week In-Camp Training (ICT), which clashed with the trip.
The couple had to make a decision: Should 2SG (NS) Chong request to defer his ICT or forfeit the trip?
They chose the latter, transferring the flight tickets to his parents.
"I can always go on another trip with my family. But if I had deferred, I would have ended up in a different ICT cycle from my batch mates and I didn't want that," explained 2SG (NS) Chong, 36, a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University's School of Biological Science.
Ms Ng understood her husband's dilemma and decided to forgo the trip too although 10 days of leave were hard to come by and holidays often had to be planned many months in advance.
"Even though I was very sian (local slang for feeling down), I wanted to be there for him while he served his ICT. So I decided to stay too," said the 36-year-old, a senior administrative officer with MSIG Insurance.
She's got his back
For 2SG (NS) Chong, his wife has always been a pillar of support. "Whenever I'm working late, she will call and ask me if I'm tired and whether I'm still okay to drive. She also waits up for me at night even though I tell her not to."
Ms Ng also packs his personal belongings whenever he goes for ICT. This simple but meaningful gesture takes a huge load off 2SG (NS) Chong's mind as he often works till midnight.
"She knows what I need to bring and I don't even have to tell her. When I reach home, I just take my bag and go!"
And when he has to be away for his NS duties, she steps up to hold the fort at home and take care of their son, 8-year-old Jayren, with the help of her in-laws.
"If I can, I try to handle the problems myself and not bother him. I don't want to make him worry unnecessarily and I'd rather he concentrate on his ICT."
Added 2SG (NS) Chong: "All my friends say I'm very fortunate!"
The couple, who have been married for 15 years, often go on late night runs together every week. Covering an average distance of 15km each run, he trains for his Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) while she does it to keep fit.
No strangers to marathons, they have participated in the Sundown and Standard Chartered races.
"When I first started running, I was very slow. So he kept pushing me to keep up with him. He was very fierce but it really motivated me!" recalled Ms Ng with a laugh.
"Now, she can keep up with my pace and is much healthier than I am!" said 2SG (NS) Chong, who regularly achieves a Silver award for his IPPT.
Passion for NS
Since completing his 10-year NS cycle two years ago, 2SG (NS) Chong has been serving under the Reservist On Voluntary Extended Reserve Service (ROVERS) scheme.
The operations specialist, who serves in an infantry unit, sees ICT as a break from his day job and enjoys preparing for exercises.
For him, volunteering is not only a good way of imparting his NS knowledge and skills to the younger generation, but also being there for his batch mates, some of whom have yet to complete their NS cycle.
"The best part (of ICT) is after an exercise when the officers praise you for a job well done. It's one of those encouraging moments that you take away from NS," he added.
All in the family
The Chongs are inculcating the same positive attitude towards NS in their young son.
While watching the Ah Boys to Men movies, 2SG (NS) Chong would explain some of the scenes to Jayren and share his NS experiences. He hopes that NS will help his son to mature and build his mental resilience, just as it did for him.
"After NS, I became more considerate. We were always working in a section, so I started to think of how my actions would affect others, and learnt to care more for my section mates. This is something that I hope my son can take away from NS," he said.
Ms Ng plans to encourage and support her son in NS, just as she has done for her husband. "It's important to serve and protect the country.
"I will tell him that I'm proud that he is doing his part in defending Singapore."