National servicemen wear many hats: father, son, brother, boyfriend, husband, boss, employee. For two years and once a year thereafter, they exchange these hats for helmets to defend the nation.
Mr Leong, and Assistant Marketing Manager Joyce Zheng from The Bedok Marketplace.
To thank them for their contributions to Singapore's safety and security, retailers and merchants have come together as part of the "We Support YOU in NS" initiative to offer discounts and benefits to servicemen from both the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Home Team.
The brainchild of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) Family and Community Council, this move to partner community organisations and small businesses was just one of several proposals by ACCORD to strengthen support for National Service (NS). The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) had accepted all 18 of ACCORD's proposals last March.
Working through the People's Association and SAFRA, the initiative was launched five months later. Since then, some 60 small businesses and merchants have come forward to show their support.
Mr Rickson Chew, 50, owner of eyewear company Tokyo Megane, said: "As a local company, we get business from society and we give back to society."
He felt that a strong defence force was also essential to Singapore's prosperity and survival: "We need our NSmen (Operationally Ready National Servicemen) to protect our country because a country at war would not be prosperous, and people would suffer." The company's White Sands Shopping Centre outlet is offering discounts on its lightweight Air Frame glasses.
"We need to show that we can defend ourselves and that we have a ready force that is willing to defend the country. It makes the citizens feel safe too," added Ms Aileen Chow, 45, Director of dental clinic chain i.Dental Invisalign Dedicated Clinic.
(From left) Dr Cheng, Ms Chow and Ms Eu Si Ping, i.Dental's marketing Manager.
Apart from showing support, participating in the initiative was also a personal experience for the merchants, many of whom had undergone NS themselves.
Dr Cheng Eng Wah, i.Dental's founder and Principal Dental Surgeon, had always been enthusiastic about the SAF. Thus, it was a no-brainer when his marketing team brought up the idea of a promotion on metal braces for Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs).
Alluding to a Chinese proverb, Dr Cheng, 53, explained: "There is no home without a nation. I believe we need a strong army and punch above our weight, so that no one will look down on us." Currently in the MINDEF Reserve, Dr Cheng was a dental officer with the Combat Support Hospital.
Mr Niven Leong, the owner of Uncle Chicken Rice in The Bedok Marketplace, was an SAF Provost Unit (now known as the SAF Military Police Command) instructor in the 1970s.
Secret Recipe is offering NSFs and NSmen special promotions.
He makes it a point to give a discount to all serviceman customers, even those who are not aware of the 10 percent discount offered by The Bedok Marketplace to all SAFRA members and 11B holders.
"I've been an NSman before, so I understand what NS is all about. The discount doesn't really affect my profits, but even if it does, it's okay. They are serving a very noble cause, so I will play my part to support them."
The 56-year-old revealed that he had a long-standing practice of giving discounts to all uniformed personnel, including nurses.
Mr Bealson Sim, 26, is a Singapore Police Force NSman who has enjoyed such privileges from appreciative merchants. Thus, he sees the importance of giving back to others like him.
Many of Legendary Hong Kong's customers are servicemen from the nearby camps.
"There are times when I bought food while in uniform, and stallholders would give me extra servings of food of their own accord," said the Assistant Marketing and Operations Manager of Legendary Hong Kong. The restaurant in Jurong Point offers SAFRA members and 11B holders a 10 percent discount off their final bill.
As for Mr Shaharudin Rahim, Manager for Customer Service and Training and Halal Affairs from restaurant chain Secret Recipe, it's about bringing servicemen together with their friends and families.
"It's only natural for NSmen to find a place to gather and, as they say in the military, 'rendezvous' or 'RV'," said the 57-year-old, who had served in the Infantry Training Depot.
"So it's a good idea to have Secret Recipe be one of their 'RV' points."
Check out the promotions at www.accord.gov.sg/WeSupportYouInNS!