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The Soldiers Who Know No Fear

Chetwode Parade Ground

As the clock on the Chetwode building strikes 0645 on Saturday, June 10, the passing out parade begins. Held twice every year, the June parade always gets underway with prayers that the rain does not play spoilsport.

The cadets train hard, stepping up practice in the final 15 days before the event. Ashish Mehta, who leads the parade, has had a sensational two years, winning a bronze medal at the end of his training at the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla last year and bagging double honours at the IMA this year.

Son of a retired petty naval officer, Mehta is awarded the coveted Sword of Honour for his all-round performance and the gold medal for standing first in the order of merit.

Awarded for the first time to Smith Dun -- who was in Sam Manekshaw's batch at the IMA and went on to become the chief of the Burmese army -- the sword is made of steel engraved with the IMA credo and bears the Ashoka emblem on the hilt. Last year, it was won by a soldier of the Royal Bhutanese Army.

In his speech, Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, the chief guest at the parade, tells the cadets that the armed forces are idealised for its values, sense of service and heroism. "When there is an erosion of values," he says, "the nation looks up to the armed forces for role models."

The Chief of the Air Staff stresses on the need to keep abreast with the latest technological developments in warfare and says learning is a continuous process for the officers.

At the pipping ceremony, when parents remove the lapels on the shoulders revealing the two stars identifying their rank, there is a wave of euphoria.

Ashish Mehta's father stands with his son's Sword of Honour, Bronze Medalist Bhavani Singh's mother has a constant film of tears, S Dhanda's old grandfather has come instead of his son who died when his grandson was in the final year at the NDA.

Smiles, tears and boundless pride. It is the perfect ending.

Also See: Kargil's First Hero

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