In Death,There Is Life (Part 2) – R21, For Matured Readers Only.

by Patrick Liew on August 23, 2012

‘Put my gun down the war is won
Fill my glass high the time has come
I’m going back to the place that I love, …’

These words are part of the haunting lyrics of Yellow River, a song composed by Jeff Christie and which became the number one hit on the UK Singles Chart in June 1970.I used to sing it while I was in school and more so when I was doing my National Service in the army.

Although I’ve officially retired from the army and put the M16S1, my ‘military wife’ down, I don’t mind going back to the army again. It’s a place I love and where I’ve spent some of the most wonderful times in my life.

In fact, I’ve used the experience as the backdrop to my first and only stand-up comedy act for the MTE Charity Concert at the Serangoon Country Club on 16 January 2012. The participants almost died of not laughing.

Here’s a short preview.

Singaporean soldiers will always win a war. Any war.

I’m not sure if your husband, brother, or male friends have shared this fact with you. If not, you’re in luck.

For the first time in history, I will share this highly classified secret with you.

When the enemies look at us – they will laugh to death.

Please let me explain. I was an instructor in the army and one of my favorite lessons was training new recruits on how to use a grenade.

I might start by telling them, “This is called a grenade. All you have to do is pull the safety pin.

“Aim, and then throw the grenade at the enemy. At the same time, shout ‘Grenade!’

“Is that understood?” (“Yes sir!”)

“Can you do it?” (“Yes sir!”)

I would then ask a recruit to do a demonstration. He would pull the safety pin and then he would throw.

The class would immediately burst out laughing.

Guess what? He had thrown the safety pin.

If the enemies were present, they might die…laughing.

Being the nice guy once in a few hundred years, I might explain, “Soldier, throw the grenade, not the safety pin.

“And don’t forget to shout, ‘Grenade!’ to forewarn your fellow soldiers. They can then take cover and not be hurt by the explosion.”

This was and is probably still a tough act for some Chinese like me. We would find it hard to pronounce words with an ‘r’ sound.

I would ask a soldier, “Are you ready to throw the grenade and shout ‘Grrrrrenade!”

“Yes sir!”

As Singaporean boys were very well ‘manufactured’ by our antiseptic system – until recently of course – the recruit would hold the grenade.

He would then repeat the instruction for everybody to hear.That is, everybody – including the enemies.

“First, hold the grenade. Then, pull the safety pin. Next, look for the enemies. Last but not least, throw the grenade. And make sure it’s not the safety pin.”

He would then look at me to await my next sacred instruction. I had to almost scream at him, “Throw! Soldier, Throw! And don’t forget to shout!”

What happened next would always floor all of us.

The recruit would shout, “Neh-net!… Neh-net!… Neh-net!”

For the uninitiated, first, it sounded funny. And depending on how the soldier pronounced ‘grenade,’ it might also come across as another word.

It might sound in local patois like he was screaming for his…grandmother!

That would still ok. He might shout it in a way that sounded like he was asking for…breast!

Not once but three times, Breast! Breast! Breast!

The enemies would hold their tummy and roll on the floor. They might die of stomach ache while laughing.

After the soldier has thrown the grenade, I would momentarily look in front and try to ascertain if he has hit the target. Sometimes, I could not see any sign of it.

I would quickly look in every possible direction. Then, I would look upwards.

Guess what was coming straight down at us? You’re right – the ‘Neh-net!’

During such an exercise, both of us would stand and be protected by the safety barriers of a bunker. It was designed to shield us from being hit by the shrapnel from a grenade.

You can imagine two ‘Singaporean-version of Mr Bean’s in uniform jumping out of the safety bunker. Imagine how it would look like from the eyes of the enemies.

There were rare occasions when a soldier would throw the grenade correctly. Then, his next action would wipe off whatever enemies were left.

The soldier would lean outside of the bunker, expose himself, and shout excitedly, “Where’s the grenade?! Where did it land?!”


The President of Singapore should award me the highest honour for bravery and for preserving soldiers’ lives. I’ve saved a few million soldiers during grenade lessons by pulling them back into the bunker just before the explosion.

The next lesson might be conducted by one of my Corporals on how to use a rifle. Another hilarious time.

The instructions were simple – “Take up firing position. Hold your breath and squeeze s-l-o-w-l-y.”

Again, this was a challenge for some Chinese Corporals. They found it hard to pronounce words ending with a ‘th.’

So, the instruction would sound like “Take up firing position. Hold your ‘BREAST’ and squeeze s-l-o-w-l-y.

One not-so-bright-soldier, very much like me might stand up. He would use both of his hands to squeeze his nipples and shout enthusiastically, “Corporal, is it like this?!” And he would squeeze it so very s-l-o-w-ly.

I’m sure you know I have been joking. In other words, the above incidents were completely not true.

The Singapore Army is absolutely and definitely the best defence force in Singapore.

Jokes aside, while the army has some of the highest standards for safety, accidents can and do happen. I’m thankful that I was not only kept alive, I had a great time in the army.

The reality of life is that no matter what background one comes from, every human will have to come face to face with death. And it can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

I am not afraid of death. I am more afraid that I have not lived the way our Creator wants me to live.

In that sense I should be more afraid of not finding something that is worth dying for.

If I cannot have something that is worth dying for, I will have nothing truly worthwhile to live for. That, to me, is worse than dying.

Because I know I may not have another second to live, I want to treasure every second that is given to me. Every second matters.

If life can disappear like the morning mist, I do not want to wait to do what really counts. I want to start taking the right action right now. In My HSR, we say “Go4It!”

I want to look after my health so that I can live until I am 140 years of age or beyond. There’s so much in life for me to learn, enjoy, achieve, and contribute to.

More importantly, it is not how long I live – but whether the good that I have done will last beyond my lifetime.

Living for what truly matters for eternity begins right now.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on current affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please read them and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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