Man of His Word
and a colleague were part of an ambushed patrol. They were killed trying
desperately to reach the dead.
As a child, he peeped through the neighbours'
windows to catch a glimpse of the Republic Day parade on television. The
soldiers in sprightly olive green fascinated him. Those images were so
powerful and enduring that even before his matriculation examination, Amardeep
Singh had resolved to wear the uniform.
The same resolve was on abundant display
atop the icy ridges of Kargil on May 8. Hand-picked to be a part of the
first patrol sent in to detect and repulse the intrusions because of his
sharp-shooting skills, Amardeep and another colleague -- also shortlisted
for an award -- Havaldar Jai Parkash, faced enemy bullets at a height of
14,000 ft for four hours. When his JCO asked an injured Amardeep to evacuate
his position, he refused to leave. He held fort alongside Jai Parkash while
the rest of the patrol retreated. With six men lost and all communication
with base cut off, their first job was to evacuate the dead. Crawling on
their stomach to avoid relentless enemy fire, the two provided covering
fire to each other to reach their dead colleagues. But with multiple gunshot
wounds in the chest and abdomen, the two met the same fate as the colleagues
they were trying to evacuate.
Amardeep loved to arrive home unannounced.
The surprise on the faces of his family members filled him with glee. But
on May 13 there were no surprises. "This time he gave us a shock," says
Prem Singh, his grieving father. Amardeep returned home in a coffin, his
body wrapped in the tricolour. Prem Singh is still trying to come to terms
with the death of his son.
In the not-so-prosperous Bandh village,
in the interiors of Haryana's Panipat district, Amardeep has overnight
become a role model for youngsters, with village boys wanting to become
heroes like him. Bandh has a tradition of sending men to the armed forces,
with two dozen men in a population of 4,000 in the military.
A teetotaller and a man of his word,
Amardeep would regularly send home his savings. Sitting disconsolate in
the dusty courtyard of his ramshackle two-room house, Prem Singh says,
"He had promised to get the house plastered." That's one promise Amardeep
won't be able to keep.