By Staff Sgt. Ramesh Kumar, 428th Fighter Squadron
/ Published December 17, 2009
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- It was one of those usual days at work, when one of my officers came up and told me the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore would be visiting my home as part of his base tour during the inauguration of Peace Carvin V.
Initially I thought he was joking, until he reiterated the message more seriously. "Mr. Teo Chee Hean, the Singapore Deputy Prime Minister, Maj. Gen. Ng Chee Khern, Chief of Singapore Air Force, Mr. Bruce Lemkin, Under Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears, 12th Air Force commander, and another 30 'super VIPs' from both Singapore and the U.S. will visit your home to gain a feel for the living conditions of Republic of Singapore servicemembers on base."
Slowly, anxiety crept into me as I came to the realization that this would be the most significant event for my family while here at MHAFB...and maybe my entire career!
When I told my wife, Rani, that the DPM of Singapore would be visiting our home, she had the same initial reaction as I had. "What?" The days leading up to the visit were most challenging.
We had a "Honey-Do" list for both of us, which got bigger as the day neared. A few things on the list included fall-cleaning, re-arranging furniture to ensure we had sufficient room, refreshments and fixing outstanding house issues.
Housing maintenance worked diligently to clear outstanding defects, and we meticulously cleaned every square inch. Although the process leading up to the visit was laborious, we took pride in presenting our home to the DPM and other distinguished visitors.
The momentous day eventually came. I waited anxiously outside my home for the arrival of the official party. A police car led the VIP bus to our curb, and in a blink of an eye, the parking areas near my house were occupied by many other cars from the VIP entourage.
As DPM and the rest of the guests exited the bus, I welcomed them with a proud salute and ushered them into my home. Rani and my daughter, Tania, were there to receive them with a warm welcome. We had a fruitful and interesting discussion with the DPM on several topics.
DPM was interested in how we adjusted to the new environment and extreme weather. He was also concerned about how we maintain our links with our family back in Singapore. We shared with him how we celebrated Deepavali, an important Hindu festival, and our experiences with bringing up our baby, Tania, who was born here in the base hospital. The DPM also jokingly asked me to get her ready to join me in the Air Force when she is older.
When it was time for them to take their leave, we took a group photograph, exchanged appreciations and warm handshakes, then sent them on their way. Rani and I felt relieved and gratified that the visit was smooth and uneventful. We felt very honored to have been given this rare opportunity to host the DPM of Singapore in our own home. Undoubtedly, this visit will be marked as one of the most memorable events of our lifetime!