Friday, July 25, 2014

A salute to the brave

Although Typhoon Matmo had spared Taiwan major damages, the bad weather caused the crash of a passenger plane near Makong airport of off-island Penhu County. Among the total 64 passengers and 4 crew members on board, only ten passengers survived this disaster. It was indeed a tragedy.

Immediately after the accident, the military, local fire department, and the coast guard sent help to the crash site trying to rescue as many survivors. Unfortunately all they could do was retrieve the remains of victims piece by piece. Calling “big brothers and big sisters, you all come home now”, as they put what parts of human remains they could find into body bags, these young soldiers, firefighters and coast guard sailors tried desperately to help victims return home. To many, it was a morbid experience to witness so many broken bodies.

When I was in the military service, I was assigned to a quartermasters company which was tasked to supply clothing, food to the troops and fuel to the vehicles during peace time. However, during war time, one more job was given to the quartermasters company. It was our company’s job to identify, bury or evacuate the bodies or, most of the time, the remains of our fallen comrades. I often wondered then if I could be strong and brave enough to do the job.

Local media reported that numbers of our armed forces personnel suffered post-traumatic stress disorder when they were ordered to help retrieve the victims’ bodies after the 921-Earthquake of 1999 and Typhoon Morak of August 2009. Some were forced to leave the service permanently and some even committed suicide.

As we now salute to those brave men and women participating in this rescue, we wish to plead eagerly to the armed forces, the national fire agency and the coast guard command to take good care of them by offering them professional counseling to help them pass through their mental ordeals.     

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