Sheer love and passion for the motherland makes every soldier stand apart. "Sons of the soil", as they are fondly called, choose to lay down their lives, not for money but for honour, dignity and recognition, that will set an example for generations to come. Three such inspiring martyrs from the city are ex-students of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Picket --- Captain Suneel Yadav, Major Suresh Suri and Major Sunil Ganapathy.
To honour these martyrs, the KV Picket Alumni Association built a War Memorial on the school premises, which has been a very integral part of each of the soldier's childhood.
At a function held to unveil the memorial on Thursday, President of the KV Picket Alumni Association, Rt. Gen. Cap. Rajeev said he was happy to be doing his bit to remember the martyrs.
"All our alumni was very supportive and funds kept pouring in from everywhere for the construction of the war memorial. We are happy that we got all the clearances and it has been made possible to respect the sacrifices they have made," he said.
Principal of the school V Gowri said, "The school is proud to have been home to these boys in their childhood and youth. The War Memorial has been built to remind the past and present of their sacrifices and symbolise the values that the school stands for."
Courage under fire
Families and friends gathered at the event and spoke about how each of them has set an example. Major Sunil Ganapathy's father, Colonel CA Ganapathy, who himself had served in the army for over 35 years, recalled that they were like friends. "He was the star of the school basketball team. As a fellow service man, I am so proud of him."
Major Sunil Ganapathy went on to become of the finest helicopter pilots that the Indian Army had. He was posted in Ladakh. In June 2008, Sunil was transferred to a Naval ship. This was a very rare occurrence as something like this can only happen to pilots of the highest caliber.
Major Sunil Ganapathy lost his life during a helicopter accident on Independence Day the same year in Ladakh. "He was on a rescue mission, where a few wounded soldiers had to be rescued from Ladakh. But, unfortunately due to bad weather his helicopter crashed," his father said and added, "He will always remain in all our memories, for he was not just a great soldier, but also a great human being."
Capt. Suneel Yadav, 22, referred to as "Gattu" by his friends was a typical "fauji" boy, they said. When he qualified for OTA, it was a dream come true for his father, seeing a jawan's son qualify as an officer.
He represented the AP contingent (NCC Air Wing) at the Republic Day Parade in Delhi and joined the Rajput Regiment, excelled and attained the Commando force distinction.
Recollecting their childhood days, his brother Susheel Yadav said: "We used to play cricket till late in the evening till mummy would come chasing us. He had a smile like a cloud, and I miss that smile. He died at 22, after three years in the army."
Sunil's friends, Salil and Ashok got very nostalgic about their days in KV. Salil shared, "We sat on the same bench, travelled in the same bus, ate together almost everyday. It was a great shock for us to hear about him." To this, Ashok, Sunil's friend added, "He was always ready to go on assignments. He even missed my wedding."
During patrolling operations on the border he was spotted by the enemy and lost his life during a clash in August 1999. Susheel and Sunil' friends, Salil and Ashok are very much upset about the fact the government had not recognized his efforts. "He had two choices, either to turn back or fight the enemy without support. A true soldier, he refused to turn back though he knew he was proceeding towards his death. We got his body almost an year after his death. The trauma the family went through cannot be described, as they had no idea what to expect. His body was lying in the snow for three months."
The third officer is Major Suresh Suri. His mother, Girija Suri shares a few memories. "He loved being happy. He was always the one to take an initiative for everything. His friends would always tell me that Suri said that he could never see tears in my eyes. But, today looking at the way people respect him, I want him to be here and get honoured. But sacrifices are a part of this profession," she said.
Major Suresh Suri joined the NDA in 1999 and passed out in Dec 2001. He joined the Infantry and was part of the 6th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment. He served with honour in South Kashmir and other places and was made special officer to President Abdul Kalam. After his tenure in Delhi, he joined the 13th Rashtriya Rifles and served as Adjutant of 13th RR. He died during a mission at Bandipura in Kashmir. Suresh Suri's friend, Vinod Achanta says, "He could have been with his family, seen his children grow up and go out and drink with friends once in a while. But, these men do this for the country. All we can do is at least remember them."