A Salute to the Silent Soldier

The world recognizes the Indian Army as being one of the best trained and most professional. When I refer to the Army, I refer to all three arms of the defence forces i.e. the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

We all know and recognize the role that our soldiers play in ensuring that India remains protected from external threats while ensuring that the sanctity of the defence services acts as a binding force amongst all citizens.

But what we do not understand is that behind the forces stands a silent soldier. An unsung hero who remains in the shadows and plays out a part that is not seen but only felt. A soldier that provides the strength, the security, the support, the comfort and steadfast assurance to the forces to go out and do what needs to be done….for the nation. Yes, this is a salute to that silent soldier.

Just as the old saying goes ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’, behind every strong soldier there is the soldier’s wife. In civilian life, we rarely get a glimpse into the life and tribulations of being a soldier’s wife. We all talk of sacrifices that a soldier makes but rarely focus our attention to an equal important sacrifice that the wife makes.

Journey begins

Picture this. A young officer brings in a young, shy and tentative woman as his wife and introduces her to a new life that she is completely unfamiliar with. A young girl who barely understands her own role as a wife, has to quickly understand the protocols of being an officer’s wife and adjust to an army life that she will now be a part of. She very soon learns that she has a very important role to play in her husband’s life and career. Every move of his will require her support and strength and this support is what will give the officer the emotional motivation to proceed with whatever the army expects him to do.

An ecosystem

The army is one large family and there is a role for everyone. It nurtures you, teaches you and there is always a helping hand available whenever you need it. Can you imagine being posted to a small town and living a quite army life and one day your husband is posted out to a non-family station. Which means only he moves, leaving behind his young wife who has barely settled into the routine of marital life. The officer leaves without a worry, knowing fully well that the army ecosystem is such that the larger family will take care of his young wife.

Standing tall

So a lifetime of sacrifice starts. The wife has to stay back alone and yet she is made to feel at home by all other army wives, providing emotional support and a helping hand whenever needed, while not letting her feel the husband’s absence.

So then comes a day when she has children. Same situation arrives again. Very often the husband is away. Imagine the problems of school admissions, getting the books organized, getting the kids to school. In the evening, getting them to go for games and then later on getting them to do the home work. On top of that, she actively participates in various social initiatives that all wives organize and undertake at the station. All this she handles alone and in her stride.

Moving on, as the kids grow into their teens, there are regular teen issues that need to be addressed. Single parenting is not easy and yet the army officer’s wife deals with it without breaking a sweat and successfully manages to raise children who grow into not just adults but citizens. So often we hear of the ‘army officer’s kid’, usually in a positive context of good upbringing. This is a tribute to not just the officer but also the officer’s wife, who does not scream out for reward or recognition, just goes about playing her role as a wife and mother.

From the outside the army life looks glamorous, adventurous and sophisticated. Yes, it is all of that but there is also a challenging life, which is not easy. Days, months and even years of separation accompanied by the pain of moving to a new location every three years, going through the packing and unpacking routine, giving up old friends and building new ones….they are all part and parcel of living an army life. In all this, the wife offers unstinting support.

The same is true for the jawan’s wife. The army jawan’s wife plays her silent part, staying back in her village or town. Handling her in-laws, her neighbours, and then raising her children, for most parts, alone. Spending long periods of separation from her man and yet providing him all the moral support to carry on his duties, is worth a salute.

No officer or jawan would be able to carry out his duties in far flung places if he did not have the faith, the assurance and the support of his wife. If India still stands strong and secure, a large part of the credit must go to the silent soldier. 

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