A tribute to Second Lieutenant Daryl Loh
8 February 1981 to 26 February 2001
Every Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training casualty touches the hearts of many Singaporeans beyond the immediate family members of the fallen warrior.
Singapore's tiny size, high population density and the acceptance of National Service (NS) as part of life in Singapore mean that the pain felt by the next-of-kin is a shared burden. Many Singaporean households have family members who had served NS and these households feel the sense of loss along with families whose loved ones died while in uniform.
The Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has never shared the full extent of training casualties in the SAF.
But that should not stop us from appreciating and embracing every casualty as a citizen who died defending the very freedom we all enjoy and sometimes take for granted.
The dry-as-dust MINDEF news releases on SAF training accidents and the aversion of the Public Affairs Department (PAFF) to media coverage of such situations seldom allow fellow Singaporeans to appreciate this fact.
The Loh family has very kindly shared pictures of their late son, Second Lieutenant Daryl Loh, so you'll see him as a naval officer and a son, brother, friend and comrade who paid the ultimate price serving the SAF.
I find the sense of responsibility displayed by senior RSN commanders at the time very heartwarming.
Former RSN Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Lui Tuck Yew, presents the Singapore flag and 2LT Loh's peak cap to Lawrence Loh, Daryl's father. The Loh family have said RADM Lui's support was exemplary.
No amount of training in a staff college or public relations grooming can prepare senior officers for that golden moment when they will meet the next-of-kin, in the presence of their grief-stricken troops, and must demonstrate the presence of mind to say something meaningful without breaking down.
In my opinion, senior commanders may show they are moved by the moment but must maintain their composure at all cost.
In emotional situations like this, people look up to senior SAF commanders for firm leadership, guidance and moral support. This is when outstanding officers distinguish themselves from the mediocre.