Tell Mom I Did My Best

Soldiers of the World unite, for you have a common legacy. Nothing proves it better than comparing the experiences of fighters from different armies of the world engaged in difficult wars under extremely provocative circumstances. Yes these are the asymmetric wars variously called as terrorism, insurgency, revolutionary and civil wars or just plain anarchy. The high level of political content in such conflicts is alien to the soldier who is merely aligned to fight for the Constitution and the Country. Thus he perceives his job as simply to go out and get that terrorist who is spurting blood and mayhem of innocent children, women and undefended men of all hues. There are many stories of selfless sacrifice that mark the lives of soldiers which makes us ordinary men feel proud that we have amidst us those who are truly willing to sacrifice their lives for our tomorrow.

One such great soldier was Major Vishal Bhandral of the Indian Army who made the supreme sacrifice while fighting terrorists in a remote jungle of the beatific Kashmir Valley in India. This was the area of Bandipore forest, a thick, secondary jungle on imposing hills which needed the skills of a mountain climber and a jungle scout to negotiate. The terrorist is skillfully ensconced in these layers of mountains and woods. It is always a losing fight for the soldier, for it is difficult to draw out the rebel as he is too wily and cunning to leave his secure hole. To eliminate him thus, closing in, is the only option.

Vishal (Meaning “Large Hearted” in Hindi) was the very epitome of a soldier. A dare devil sportsman, he excelled in football and skating. He was always in the thick of operations during his two and half year stint of counter terrorism operations in Kashmir. Ever willing to go on that extra patrol, his words on joining the Army were truly that of a great warrior as he wrote to his father, “If I die in the battle zone, box me up and take me to my home, pin up the medal on my chest and tell mom I did my best”.

Well on that fateful day in the last week of September, Vishal was called upon to do his best. Reports of terrorists having been sighted in Sumlara, a village near Bandipore, were received. Vishal had packed his bags to move on a well deserved posting to a peace station in the normal tour of duty. No body wanted him to go. But not for him, the easy way of not following the smell of battle. He took out his troops and engaged the terrorists in fierce, gory close combat, till a bullet got him plumb and the great soldier fell to death and glory, amidst his adopted brethren, comrades at arms, far away from home and hearth, kindred and kin.

It was a sacrifice well made, for his troops, inspired by their leader’s example, ensured that the skirmish was successfully terminated. As Vishal’s martyred body was brought home, by the pall bearers of the 14 GARHWAL RIFLES, officers all who came specially to pay a tribute to a great soldier, his words rang true in the ears of his family, “tell mom I did my best”. That best was certainly beyond the call of ordinary duty.

Just as Vishal, there are many great soldiers, who are performing beyond the call of duty on many fronts, be it Iraq, Kashmir or Afghanistan, faced with similar challenges. Let us all honor them by recounting their stories of valor and sacrifice.

Rahul K. Bhonsle is a Strategic Risk and Knowledge Management Consultant and writer with specific focus on defence and security, especially in South Asia.