One of the reasons this Commando officer volunteered to serve as the Singapore president’s Honorary Aide-De-Camp, is to honour his late father.
As he marched across the Padang during the 2015 National Day Parade (NDP) preview, then-Captain (CPT) Vaithalingam Venod Kumar could see his father watching from the seating gallery. It was a proud but emotional moment for him.
Mr Kannusamy Vaithalingam was half-paralysed from a debilitating stroke, and had developed dementia – he probably couldn't understand what's going on, or remember that it was his wish to see his children in uniform at NDP.
"My brother was frantically trying to point and show him that that was me," said MAJ Venod, who was then the Commando Guard-of-Honour Contingent Commander.
"At that point in time, my dad was already a stroke patient and suffering from dementia. So I couldn't really relate to him that I was doing this. But I knew that he would have been very happy to see me at the parade."
Mr Kannusamy was a former police officer. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 68.
His father was a major reason MAJ Venod volunteered to serve as an Honorary Aide-De-Camp, or HADC, when the opportunity was presented to him.
"If he was alive, he would have definitely told me, 'Hey, go and do it!'" said the 41-year-old, now a staff officer in Joint Service.
As a HADC, he attends to the needs of President Halimah Yacob, and accompanies her at state functions, ceremonies or events. He also helps to plan and coordinate these events.
MAJ Venod had been appointed as a HADC last year, but due to the COVID-19 restrictions, no appointment ceremony was held.
Being a HADC is a voluntary duty, over and above his regular job as a Commando officer. But MAJ Venod, who is married, does not mind putting in the extra hours.
Being able to stand beside the President at state events was a dream come true for him. Since his secondary school days, he had always been fascinated by images of the Singapore President being flanked by two uniformed personnel, the HADCs, on TV and newspapers.
One of the HADCs would often be a commando donning the distinctive Red Beret, said MAJ Venod, as he listed the names of former commandos who had served as HADCs over the decades.
"I told myself if I were to sign on with Army, the Commandos would be the unit that I want to join."
MAJ Venod hopes that as a HADC now, he too can inspire young boys to become a Commando, just as previous generations of Commando HADCs had inspired him.
Doing his mum proud
Being a HADC has also allowed her mother to see what he does at work, he added.
He had not been able to share much about his work with his mother due to the sensitive nature of Commando training and missions.
"So whatever Istana events that I took part in, she would always ask me whether she can see it on Madam President's Facebook," said MAJ Venod.
He added: "I'm just happy that I can now do a role that my family members can (see) and relate to, and that my mom can be proud of right now.
"Giving her that joy at this stage of her life, I think it's priceless."