Determined To Defend

Determined To Defend

2LT John Yap, the Sword-of-Honour recipient from the 110/17 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade, shares about keeping in touch with his Singaporean roots, his motivations to return for National Service, and his determination to excel during his 2-year journey.


1. How old were you when you moved to Hong Kong, and why the move?

When I was 5 years old, my family moved to Hong Kong because my father was based there for work. Currently, my parents and my little sister are still in Hong Kong. My elder sister works here in Singapore, and when I book out on the weekends, I stay with her at my relative's place.

2LT John with his family at his passing-out parade

2. What were your thoughts of one day returning for NS? Were your parents supportive?

In our family, it was taken as a given that I would return to serve NS. To me, NS was an inevitable 2 years, which I could choose to make the most of or to squander. I was excited to experience what NS is really like, and try my hand at military training and service. Of course, there were also feelings of apprehension. The night before enlisting, I could barely sleep from the anticipation. I was nervous about things like whether I'd be able to fit in, or whether I'd be able to keep up with the training. But looking back, I wouldn't be surprised that many others were feeling the same way too.

My parents have been most supportive throughout my NS journey. Naturally, they were proud to see me get the Sword-of-Honour. But more importantly, they knew how much effort I was putting into the course, and Sword-of-Honour or not, I believe they would have been just as proud of me. Having no expectations other than to see me serve with a good attitude, I always felt able to share my NS progress and milestones with them. Sometimes my dad and I compare a little bit: while he concedes that he was never able to do 20 pull ups in a row, he never lets me forget that unlike me, he managed to clinch marksman with an M-16.

2LT John's father affixing his 2LT rank during the commissioning parade

3. What’s your favourite memory of NS thus far?

Maybe not the favourite, but the most lasting memory for me is of a particular group discussion at the start of my AWO(GBAD) course. During this discussion on the topic of commitment to defence, a Lieutenant-on-course shared that, in his opinion, Singaporeans returning from abroad would never take NS seriously, would try their best to siam, and would only end up being a burden to the SAF. Feeling both amused and offended at this broad-brush generalization, I found myself stuck. While I personally could not disagree more, neither could I dismiss the statement entirely.

Looking back on this incident, I am glad to be one example of the many Singaporeans returning from abroad who contribute meaningfully through NS. I hope my story can will encourage others like me through their 2 years of service.


4. What was your greatest motivation during your training?

Firstly, growing up, I've always been taught by my parents and in church to live for a bigger purpose in life. So feeling the need to live up to the important role Ground-Based Air Defence Officers play in keeping our skies safe was definitely a big motivation. Secondly, I've always loved challenging myself, to push myself to grow and develop as a person. Together, these two things drive me to strive to be as competent and proficient an Officer as I can be.

2LT John with his SQN mates

5. What were some ways you had to keep in touch of your Singaporean roots?

Actually, I attended primary school at Singapore International School (HK), where we had foundational lessons in Singapore history and social studies. Growing up, my parents would often talk about the happenings in Singapore, and we'd regularly return to visit our extended family here. We also came back for significant national events, like returning to pay our last respects when our late founding father Mr. Lee Kuan Yew passed away. These helped to reinforce my sense of identity all the way since a very young age.


6. Hong Kong food or Singapore food?

Well, it's quite simple really. Give me dimsum every day, and I'll tell you how much I miss Singapore food. Give me Singapore food every day, and I'll tell you how great the food in Hong Kong is. I guess with food, absence does make the heart grow fonder!

But seriously though, authentic Singaporean food is very hard to come by in Hong Kong, and I've been enjoying it a lot nowadays on the weekends when I book out!


7. On a scale of 1 – 10, how fluent are you in Cantonese?

This is actually something I'm quite embarrassed about, but I would say on the whole, a 5/10. Something about the intonation still gets me, and fluency wise, I'd like to believe that I am actually much more intelligent than what I sound like when I speak Cantonese!