Nothing is ever impossible for those with determination, drive and perseverance. Lt General Vijay Oberoi overcame a tremendous handicap, the loss of a limb, to rise to the top of his profession. Originally from Chakwal, the home of a large number of soldiers, he now resides at Panchkula.
Commissioned in June 1961, he joined 1st Maratha the famous Jangi Paltan, raised in 1768. On August 27, 1965, in action against Pakistani infiltrators in the Dachigam Forest near Srinagar, he was severely wounded in the right leg which had to be amputated. After a long period of recuperation and treatment, including fitting of an artificial limb, he was presented with a choice of what to do next. He chose to remain with the infantry determined to overcome his handicap. Through grit and an inborn zest for life he prevailed.
Oberoi’s first priority was to remain fit which he achieved through swimming, squash, cycling and golf. Never at a loss for self-confidence, he sought to return to his battalion where he competed with his peers on an equal footing in the demanding world of the infantry.
Always a voracious reader he kept abreast of the academic side of military life, winning a competitive vacancy to the Staff College. Never for a moment did he falter, lose hope or become overcome by pessimism. Truly an example for everyone!
The General succeeded in rising up through the ranks commanding troops at all levels, including being only the second infantry officer after General Sundarji to command an armoured division. Attaining the rank of army commander he also had a number of successful stints in the military operations directorate at Army HQ, the nerve centre of operational planning and formulation of military policy on all counts. In addition he also served with the training and intelligence directorates, as an instructor at the College of Combat and as the military attaché in Malaysia. After retirement he set up the army’s think tank, the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, and a charitable organisation for the welfare of wounded veterans, the War Wounded Foundation.
The soldier as an Aam Aadmi Soldiers face the same problems as the common man. Fewer of them relate to his service life because of the inbuilt grievance redressal systems and the interest taken in his welfare by his officers and their superiors. Military men and women face manifold problems outside service life because of the lack of such systems or a mechanism interested in their well-being. Where they do face problems within the forces is because of matters outside the realm of their officers – pay, benefits and perks.
However, on retirement soldiers face a multitude of problems relating to the same issues as well as matters pertaining to retirement benefits, housing, pensions and most of all gainful employment.
Here it is voluntary efforts on their behalf by social workers, the odd politician who takes interest in ex-servicemen’s welfare and most of all their own former officers, now retired, who take up cudgels on their behalf that keep them going. The good work done by ex-servicemen’s organisations and individuals to remedy wrongs and provide the kind of ‘mai-baap’ services that soldiers are used to is commendable.
I’d like to start 2014 on a good note by acclaiming those who speak out on behalf of our former defenders.
Please write in with your narratives of war and soldiering to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 093161-35343