"Don't shed your tears. Be proud, your son has met martyrdom. Every drop of his blood will inspire other soldiers to vanquish those who try to hurt the nation…"
These words of consolation came from K Unnikrishnan to his wife Dhaneshwari for their son Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who fell to terrorists' bullets at Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai last year. He was killed on the sixth floor of the hotel on November 27 while leading a special action group of the National Security Guards (NSG).
Sandeep's parents were here for the 23rd Biennial-cum-11th Reunion Conference of Bihar Regimental Centre (BRC), which concluded here on Thursday.
Emotionally surcharged and overwhelmed by the occasion, Sandeep's mother broke down after hearing about the brave deeds of his son from his junior army personnel of the 7th Bihar Battalion who knew him closely before he opted for NSG for 30 months in June 2006.
Subedar Parimal Gaurnaw, Subedar Rims Bara and Subedar R K Pathak (priest), all jawans of the 7th Bihar Battalion, recalled the sense of discipline in Sandeep and his care for juniors. "He could boost the morale of the most downcast jawan," one of them said.
Recalling her son's valour, Sandeep's mother said, "I am proud of his deeds but the mother within me still would have loved to see him alive. Sorry, I could not stop my tears." However, his father appeared composed and took his son's death as a duty "an Army officer is called upon to do for the nation".
He recalled that his son was hale and hearty and never needed a doctor's care for any ailment. "He never fell ill", he said, adding that even after being hit by terrorists' bullets, he did not try to save himself or rush to a hospital. Instead, he exhorted the jawans to clean up enemies and not to be killed by them.
Sandeep's parents later released a book 'Veer Bihari' which lists the bravehearts of the Bihar Regiment.
Sandeep joined the army through the 104th batch of National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1994. After being commissioned into the Army, he was posted with the 7th Bihar Regiment in June 1999. He had topped twice at the 'Ghatak Competition', a meet at the command level of the Indian Army, before joining the NSG. He had also served as Company Commander and Adjutant at Hyderabad, besides undergoing training at the High Altitude Warfare Institute at Gulmarg and Lalgarh-Jatta in Rajasthan.
Sandeep, who was awarded Ashok Chakra posthumously, always demonstrated extraordinary courage, as was evident near the LoC with Pakistan, when he single-handedly pushed enemies back on several occasions and made a mark of his valour during 'Operation Parakaram' in the Jodhpur sector.