This is how much National Service meant to this Leukaemia survivor


Stories of servicemen downgrading physical employment status (PES) due to medical reasons are not uncommon.

But upgrading PES despite being a Leukaemia survivor and undergoing two rounds of Basic Military Training in order to serve in a combat role? Now, that’s pretty rare.

This is Third Sergeant (3SG) Keefe Lee Rui Kai’s story, as reported in Pioneer.

From PES E…

As a child, 3SG Lee suffered from Leukaemia and when it was time for enlistment – despite having recovered some years ago and despite being a school basketball player and dragonboater – he was assigned PES E, which meant that he couldn’t serve in a combat vocation.

Pioneer reported that he was looking forward to serving the army but was disappointed with his physical status.

“When I was assigned PES E, I was disheartened. I had been curious and passionate about NS and really looked forward to experiencing what my father could not (his father is hearing impaired). But I accepted it and continued with my BMT (Basic Military Training) at Basic Military Training Centre School V,” he told Pioneer.

But he would soon learn that everything happens for a reason.

His BMT experience made him realise the importance of NS and a strong SAF – through a series of National Education lessons – and sparked something in him: to upgrade his PES.

… to PES B1

Long story short: he managed to upgrade his PES to B1.

His reward? A second BMT in Pulau Tekong. And boy did he relish the chance.

The 24-year-old signed on as an Air Defence Systems Specialist and was awarded the Golden Bayonet at the Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade on May 19, 2022.

He told Pioneer his journey from PES E to B1.

“I’ve been sharing my SAF journey with my family, and my brother is very inspired when he hears my stories. He can’t wait for his turn to do NS, and he wants to do even better than me! I feel a sense of achievement knowing I’ve inspired him. I’ve helped the nation gain one more national defender!”

51st Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade

3SG Lee was among 923 cadets who graduated at the 51st Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade – the first full graduation parade since the Covid-19 pandemic – at Pasir Laba Camp on May 19.

There as the guest of honour, Minister of State for Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development, Associate Professor Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim highlighted the importance of an operationally-ready SAF as a defender of Singapore.

He said: “Given our reality as a small nation, we must not take our territorial integrity and sovereignty for granted. We must always be prepared to defend ourselves without relying on the help from others. This is why Singapore has invested consistently to build up a credible and strong SAF and ensure that we remain ready in the face of a rapidly changing operating environment and increasingly uncertain geopolitical outlook.”

“The strength of the SAF does not only lie within its leading-edge capabilities, but more importantly, it is in our people and our shared commitment to enhance Singapore’s peace and security,” he added.

Luckily for us, with soldiers like 3SG Lee, whose steadfast commitment to National Service, Singapore’s future is in good hands.

Cover photo credit: Specialist Cadet School Facebook page.