Last Wednesday, Rice Bowl hosted its first event of the year, featuring senior Jingyang Ng as the key speaker. During the evening, Ng delved into his years of military experience in the Singaporean army prior to beginning time at Wheaton.
Rice Bowl, a club dedicated to bringing East Asian culture to campus, hoped that Ng’s experience would serve as a learning opportunity for those who listened.
Singapore, along with South Korea and Taiwan, operates Compulsory National Service, or required enrollment in the military, for all male citizens. Singapore’s program begins with Basic Military Training, a nine-week program meant to prepare soldiers to enter the military. Officers require additional training.
Ng finished his program with vocational training, preparing for the next portion of service. Soldiers are assigned to a unit, and Ng went to work in the Signal Unit, employing a more vocational approach than many others.
As an island neighbored by Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which are Islamic countries, Singapore deals daily with the reality of national tensions. It is a relatively young country, having gained its independence in 1965. Due to its small population of only 5.47 million, the Compulsory National Service acts as a deterrent, in the hopes of avoiding a war.
Beyond this, National Service is supported by Singaporean citizens due to the belief that it will instill values, discipline, professionalism, leadership and national loyalty into each incoming generation.
Ng stated that the national consensus seems to be that, “national service is important, but things need to be changed to improve it.” Although the country claims to esteem its soldiers, Ng added, “I don’t see a concrete way they value me.”
Ng concluded his talk with lessons he learned during his time in the army, many of which carry over into other realms of life. He reflected that peoples’ experience seem normal, “until you get to know them.” People can appear as alright externally when they may be experiencing difficult circumstances. Additionally, because every Singaporean’s time in the military is so unique, Ng also stated that he learned to better deal with life’s unfairness.
A key component of the evening was the role of faith in the military experience. Ng noted that although God sometimes “disappears,” it is our role to seek him out. He cited Proverbs 25:2, which says, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
Rice Bowl president senior Daniel Claxton said of the event that, “Each person does have a story.” As it is the club’s purpose to help promote diversity, the value of a story’s uniqueness cannot be underestimated.
“The topic is something really foreign to us,” said Claxton, as well as something that he had felt particular interest in.
“To have students who went through this but don’t have an avenue to share is kind of a waste,” he added. “We do need students to talk about what they went through.”
Rice bowl’s purpose in hosting this event, as well as upcoming events, is to give students with differing experiences these avenues for sharing.
Claxton said he hopes that “our club can serve as a testimony of what they went though in their culture,” because, “If we’re going to emphasize (that we are) one body, we need students to share.”
Rice Bowl’s next event will be an upcoming India movie night taking place in November.