Honouring Veterans

Keru has sent in an eye-opening experience recounted by Lt Gen MM Lakhera. I have edited some comments, to be published later, made by the person who circulated this anecdote, Col PP Vyas. 

‘HONORING THE VETERAN

 I had gone to UK in 1995 as Deputy Leader of the Indian Delegation to take part in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the victory in Europe during the Second World War. I along with four other Army officers, had just stepped out after attending the inaugural session and were waiting on the roadside for the traffic to ease so as to walk across the road to the vehicle park. Among those with me was Honorary Captain Umrao Singh,a Victorian Cross winner (unfortunately, I have received the sad news of his expiry just two days back). All of a sudden a car moving on the road came to a halt in front of us and a well dressed gentleman stepped out. He approached Umrao Singh and said, “Sir, may I have the privilege of shaking hands with the Victoria Cross?” He shook hands with him. Evidently he had spotted Umrao Singh’s medal from his car and had stopped his car to pay his respect to a winner of the highest gallantry medal of his country. 

    Then he looked at me and said, “General, you are from (the) Indian Army?” When I replied in affirmative, he gave out his name, saying that he was Micheal Hazeltine . I was absolutely astounded as the recognition dawned on me that he was the Deputy Prime Minister of UK . I was totally overawed by such courtesy shown by a dignitary of the second highest status in the British Government and humbly thanked him for having invited our delegation for the VE Day function. Again his reply was typical of his sagacity, “General, it is we the British, who should be grateful to your country and your Armed Forces, who had helped us win both the first and the second World wars. How can we be ever so ungrateful to forget your country’s great contribution.” Suddenly I became conscious that all the traffic behind his car had come to stand still. I hurried to thank him and politely requested him to move along to relieve the traffic hold-up. He stated, “Sir, how dare I drive off when Victoria Cross has to cross the road.” 

    Realizing his genuine feeling I and my colleagues quickly crossed the road. Reaching the other side I looked back and saw that Mr. Hazeltine was still standing waiting for the Victoria Cross to be safely across. Ladies & Gentlemen, that is the type of regards they have for their decorated soldiers. I have always aspired that similar respect could be shown at least to a Param Vir Chakra or Ashok Chakra winner by the leaders and prominent figures in our country.’ 


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6 Responses to Honouring Veterans

  1. vk Murthy says:

    Do we have to wait for another war to honour the veterans and service personnel. In that case WE do not want the HONOUR. Let there be PEACE.
    Indian Memory is very short. Still a few will carry the Air Force Glory in spite of POLITICS.

    VK.MURTHY

  2. Wg.Cdr.H.R.Seetharam ( Retd ) says:

    My friend and I were deputed to Ferrantis, Edinburg for training on the Airpass radar which was considered to be fitted on the Marut.As part of the programme we had to spend a week at an RAF Base in Melksham. Gp.Capt. Davis was so happy to have us on the Base that he organised a special Dining-in Night for the two of us junior officers. In a short speech he expressed his great admiration for the IAF personnel. He was earlier one of the Directors in Air Hqs before returning to the UK.Let us face it. We, Service officers, are a class apart.

  3. Cherry says:

    Dear Ckk Sir ,

    Nice one !! But in India, during the war if any , we may get some respect. Otherwise never !!

    Looking forward to meeting you at Bangalore

    Regards Cherry

    • menonckk says:

      Dear Cherry,
      Much is happening in India. There is still hope. In the meanwhile, our service men and women do get some deference from the aam aadmi, which is not much in evidence West of the Pond.
      Yes 3 weeks to go for many high-fives.
      Mini

  4. SC Batra says:

    I had heard this story some years back. I have seen in UK and US the type of respect veterans get from public. I have associated with welfare of ESM but found that on paper, the civil society is expected to respect the veterans but in actual cases, they are considered as simple people who could be fooled and made use of easily…

    This type of behaviour will not come in India since we are not martial nation with no history of wars like faced by Europe. Fuaz is taken as one of the job avenues under central government and order of preference is Civil Services, IPS, Foreign services, allied services, railways and last armed forces..

  5. menonckk says:

    What a great story!
    Naya Zamana Aayega.

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