"Tough times don't last, tough men do. These tough times we are going through is not something that any individual or company can overcome alone."
It was these thoughts that prompted 1st Sergeant (1SG) (NS) Lee Jin Rong, a naval-diver turned donburi-seller, to think out of the box to tide his business through the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) situation.
For one, he partnered with an out-of-work airport limousine driver to do deliveries.
His company, Bowl Chap, also started an initiative in support of frontline workers – raising donations to give out 150 rice bowls and 170 meal vouchers to staff from National University Hospital, Singapore General Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
Having served as a Regular in the Naval Diving Unit (NDU)'s Clearance Diving Group for seven years, 1SG (NS) Lee has seen and overcome his fair share of challenges.
He was activated on New Year's Eve in 2014 to take part in the international search-and-locate efforts in finding the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501.
"We had to use a handheld sonar to 'ping' for the black box in the Java Sea and the waters were very choppy," recalled the NDU Dive Leader.
"Eventually, we found parts of the aircraft. My heart was heavy when we saw the bodies still strapped into the seats. It was really saddening.
"We also managed to locate the black box later. I felt honoured that, at least, we were able to give closure to the families."
In 2015, he left service to pursue his love for cooking – taking a culinary course at Sunrise Global Chef Academy, where he got an an internship at the European restaurant-bar Tippling Club.
He opened his own donburi hawker stall in 2018, with his then-girlfriend (now wife), Lee Pei Sin.
As a hawker, 16-hour days are common. "Sometimes it felt like it was worse than 'hell week' because it was never-ending. But I was happy because we were committed," said the 31-year-old.
Bowl Chap has since moved into a shop at Fusionopolis, with three other full-time staff to help with the load.
Wherever 1SG (NS) Lee goes, his NDU family goes with him. He often sees ex-naval diving mates coming to his shop to show their support.
"The brotherhood in NDU is very hard to find. We trust each other completely; our lives depended on it when we went out for underwater operations," said 1SG (NS) Lee.
He recalled his last day as a Regular in NDU when his buddies pooled money to arrange a "breakfast buffet".
"After that we went for a jog together and they carried a speaker with the song See You Again playing throughout the whole run.
"Not to be shy about it, I cried on my last day of service."