The Story Of A Soldier’s Wife – The First Year

The excitement and pride at being a Nuri pilot’s wife soon gave way to the stark reality of the true nature of his job. There was a considerable amount of fear and worry but it was not so serious as to render our lives sad and miserable. In fact, our lives were almost as normal as any other civilian couple. Except for the fact that he was always away from home, there was nothing much to complain. His flying schedules were tight and hectic. Apart from the week long monthly detachments to the various operational areas, there were many other tasks. Every time he flew, there was no knowing when he would be back. It was at a time when telephones were scarce and regarded as luxury items, and only senior officers and those holding special appointments were entitled to have them installed in their homes. Except for the detachments that were perfectly scheduled, the rest were highly unpredictable.

I was left to fend for myself during his frequent absence. The driving license that I just got, gave me  the independance that  was crucial in ensuring that the daily activities were not disrupted by his absence. It also gave me the freedom to explore the whole camp. One particular area which was of great interest to me was the NAAFI (the present equivalent of PERNAMA). The NAAFI of those days were renowned for their imported goods that included chocolates, toiletries AND Elizabeth Arden skincare and cosmetics. I would head straight to the NAAFI every month after getting my meagre teacher’s pay cheque to indulge in the chocolates and Elizabeth Arden cosmetics.

While I got to use the Peugeot 204, my husband had to content himself with the “kapcai”, an old  Honda C50, to take him to the squardron and back. The old engine was so irritatingly loud and noisy and distracting that made it the only one of its kind around the officers’ quarters. Ironically,the same irritating sound was also music to my ears, for it would signal the safe return of my husband. Incidentally, the kapcai also clocked hundreds of flying hours because he would take it along with him in the aircraft when he went on detachments. He loved the old bike but after much persuasion from a fellow Nuri pilot who took a fancy to it, he finally sold it for RM200 and bought himself a brand new C70.

After about a year of joining him, he started his conversion course in Nuri captaincy. It was every Nuri copilot’s dream to be a captain of the aircraft and my husband was no exception. I could see the pride and satisfaction AND relief after toiling over the menial tasks of carrying out the extensive pre-flight checks and preparing the tedious flight plans for almost two years. There was one other perk I remember him telling me but he vehemently denied when I checked with him just before writing this. A captain gets to raise his leg and rest it against the the aircraft window. I suppose what he meant was that a captain was entitled to a certain degree of freedom in movement in the small cockpit while a copilot had to sit prim and proper throughout the entire flight.

It was while my husband was undergoing the conversion course that the Gubir tragedy struck.

To be continued………..

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The Story Of A Soldier’s Wife -My First Lesson In History

My first lesson in history began when I was just three years old. I was in Baling, Kedah, when the Baling Peace Talks was held at the Tunku Putra English School. I started my primary education at the same school a few years later. My father was a government officer at the Baling District Office for almost seven years before he was transfered to The Treasury in Kuala Lumpur. We were staying in the government quarters about 300 metres from the school. I don’t rememember anything from the incident but I think I learned several new words from the crowd that gathered around my house that day. They were “Tunku Abdul Rahman, Chin Peng and communist”. That would be my first informal introduction to the subject of history. Unfortunately, I fared badly in the subject despite the early exposure, much to the chagrin of my late father who seemed to enjoy it as much as I loathed it.

Like all the other Malaysians in the 70’s, I was aware of the fighting that was going on between the armed forces and the communists but it did not deter me from tying the knot with a military man. My mother, too, would not have consented giving away her only child in marriage had she been scared to death turning her daughter into a widow. So would my grandmother before her. Two of my aunties were married to Army officers. The truth was never really revealed, not even AFTER marriage! It only surfaced after my husband published his book three years ago!!!

It would be a lie to say that he did not breath a word to me about what was going on in the jungle. I knew that the Nuri was shot at many times. I knew that they fired at his aircraft twice. I knew that he had to ferry many soldiers, some dead, some seriously wounded out of the jungle. I knew that there was a raging war deep within the jungles. But they were told in such a casual manner that left me completely unsuspecting of the actual scenario. He immediately dispelled whatever fears that I had by convincing me that it would take hundreds of shots to bring down a big bird like the Nuri. Besides, they always flew so high it would be impossible for the bullets to reach them, conveniently omitting the part when they had to land and take off. I was young and naive and sufficiently SATISFIED with the explanation.I would be in for the biggest shock of my life soon after this.

Even at the Wives Club, there was no talk about whose husband was being shot at. They talked about everything else under the sun EXCEPT that. I would know who would be promoted, who would go for overseas courses, who would be appointed Flight Commnders or Squadron Commanders, who would be posted out, who would be coming in, etc, etc, etc, way ahead of my husband. BUT, there would be ZERO discussion on what went on inside the jungle. I used to wonder whether they knew what I knew. It only became apparent years later that they knew much, much more than me. Yes, the wives were a desciplined lot and I was slowly imitating them, both the good AND the bad.

To be continued………

A Soldier’s Wife Story – An Introduction

I write this entry in response to Cik Faye’s request, through a comment in my entry, click here, that I tell what I went through when my husband was busy flying the Nuri in the communist- infested jungles during the insurgency era. Unlike my husband who seems to thrive on history, I don’t particularly enjoy dwelling on past events for it would inevitably evoke memories, both pleasant AND unpleasant alike. When I write, more often than not, I get carried away, sometimes spilling more than I should. But, it is only proper that I tell both, the good and the bad. Apart from having to fend off the constant worries each time he flew into the jungles, there were other areas that we, as wives, had to deal with.

My association with the Air Force began in the mid 70’s when I finally joined my husband in Kuantan after completing my studies at UPM. I also started my teaching career here at Sekolah Menengah Abdul Rahman Talib, SMART for short. It was not easy being a teacher but it was tougher being a wife, a MILITARY wife, to be precise. I was not familiar with the ranking structure but I soon discovered that I, too, held the same rank as my husband. It was exciting until I realised that there were many others who held higher ranks than me. While many of these wives were nice and friendly and mingled freely regardless of their husbands’ ranks, there was not a shortage of those pompous ones, who flaunted their power without guilt or shame.

As wives, we were automatically absorbed as members of the “Wives Club” with the Base Commander’s wife acting as president. Activities were organised and members participation was COMPULSORY. While it was undeniably nobel trying to divert our worries by keeping ourselves busy and occupied with the activities organised, it became increasingly difficult for ME to keep pace with the demands of having to juggle between career and social obligation as a military wife. I played truant many times and for that, my poor husband was summoned by his boss, many times also, to explain for my poor conduct. Such was the influence and power of the Wives Club which later became known as BAKAT. It seemed terribly unfair and inappropriate to me, at that time, that my husband had to answer for MY misdeeds until I had a taste of being at the helm much later, by a twist of fate, not by virtue of being a Base Commander’s wife. My husband, in all his 25 years service, NEVER made it as a lieutenant-colonel, let alone a Base Commnder.

To be continued……….,

True Grit

Something came in the post a few days ago for the spouse. I was the one who took it out of the mail box. One glance at the envelope was all it took to guess the contents. I knew the letter would add another feather to his cap. Another achievement. Another victory. It may be modest and insignificant to some but for someone who had worked tirelessly and persistently AND shamelessly for almost two years, it was a huge success. Not just for him alone but for a whole bunch of others as well.

Despite my sincere admiration, I am still not able to comprehend why he was willing to sacfrice so much time and effort doing something which should have been done by those with power, position and influence. A mere snap of those influential fingers would have seen things done what took him years to accomplish. Ironically though, this particular letter that just arrived would benefit quite a handful of those perched high up above. I suppose, someone has got to do the job and that someone is none other than my good old spouse.

He beamed with pride and satisfaction when I handed the letter to him. It was to mark a new beginning for him and some one hundred and twenty two others. A national recognition and honour. Well done. Much as I detested seeing you sweat and slog, I am proud of you. It goes to show what true grit and determination could achieve.

Shattered Dreams

The waiting was agonising

The patience was challenging

But the hopes were high

The path was conveniently paved out for us

We thought we stood a good chance

Of reaching out for the stars

Of riding high upon the rainbows

But, alas

There were no stars illuminating the dark sky

There were no rainbows adorning the grey horizon

There were no birds singing us their praises

Just an eerie silence

We understood the implication

It was devastating

It was so terribly painful

There was no way we could argue our case

We just had to swallow it

The whole bitter reality

Dare we to dream again?

A Freak Accident

What I feared most became a reality last Wednesday. Even as I am writing this, the painful “scream” which I heard still sends a chill down the spine. I thought I was careful enough to avoid such mishaps from happening. Mistake number one.

I left the house at about 10 that fateful morning after having made sure that Montel, the deaf cat, was securely caged. She has a habit of sleeping along the path of the electric gate and greeting me head-on when I drive into the garage. So, I always, always go the extra length in ensuring her safety.

I was not particularly concerned over the other two strays-turned-permanent- residents, Kaka and ChaCha. They are young and lively and fast as lightning. Although Kaka walks with a noticeable limp, it has never restricted his movements. I took it for granted that they would be able to sense an impending danger and steer clear of it. Grave mistake number two.

I returned home about an hour later and like always, craned my neck to see whether Montel was still in her cage, while still behind the wheel. I could see her restless figure in the cage and then I did what I always do…..pressed the remote control to open the gate. Fatal mistake number three.

The gate slid slowly one third of the way and then stopped. I could not hear anything because the engine was running and both the air conditioner and the radio were on. Thinking that it was a mechanical problem, I pressed on the remote control again in the hope of waking up the sluggish motor. Unforgiveable mistake number four.The gate moved a fraction and then stopped again.

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The gate.

There was no way I could manouvre the car through the narrow gap and so I opened the door to inspect the cause of the problem. The moment I opened the door, I heard the deafening scream. I did not have to look, I knew the answer. Almost immediately my body shook uncontrollably. My mother who was inside the house came out to investigate the commotion as well.

It was Kaka. His lower “torso” was trapped tightly under the massive 20 foot long steel gate. Both my mother and I tried to ease him out but there was no way we could free him.

I sent an SOS to the spouse who was still at the golf course. It took him about 15 minutes to arrive at the scene. He mustered all his might and lifted the heavy gate at the point where Kaka was trapped. It lifted a few millemeters off the ground. My mother and I seized the opportunity to pull Kaka out. Kaka must have also sensed the slight loosening on his trapped body and started to wriggle out. Finally, after almost half an hour, we managed to push him out.

He leapt out like a frog using only his fore limbs, dragging both the hind limbs which appeared completely limp and lifeless. He could not stand on all fours. He had to drag his entire body using his two front limbs. I was quite certain he would be paralysed from the “waist” down.

We rushed him over to the vet. The vet took a quick look at him and gave him a super strong painkiller. That was it. No x-rays, nothing. I had never doubted his (the vet) credibility throughout my ten-year association with him but this time my faith in him faltered. Stupid mistake number five.

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At the vet's clinic.

I cradled Kaka in my arms on our journey home. He sat very still and then I felt a growing warmth sweeping across my lap. Given the circumstances he was in, he was not punished for peeing on me. In fact, I was genuinely relieved the accident did not damage his kidneys and bladder.

Today, six days after the accident, Kaka is able to walk on all fours again, although the steps are slow and wobbly. Miraculously, there are no broken bones. I hope the worst is over but only time will tell.

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On the day of the accident.


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On the second day


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On the third day.


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This morning.

No more electric gates for me. Not even those with sensors. Period.

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