Tears rolled down the faces of family members of the fallen soldiers of Kargil war at the sight of memorials unveiled today for their loved ones who helped trounce the Pakistani army 10 years ago while colleagues and superiors paid emotional tributes to the heroes.
"Looking at the faces of the brave soldiers, kins of martyrs and awardees, I wonder what these heroes are made of?... They are examples of patriotism," former army chief V P Malik, who commanded the force during the Kargil conflict, said while dedicating a war memorial gallery in Drass named after Paramvir Chakra awardee Capt Manoj Panday.
Captain Manoj Pandey was involved in recapturing Khalobar ridgeline, one of the most dominant positions captured by the Pakistani troops in Kargil sector.He died on July 3, 1999 in this sector.
"He is my hero as well as the nation's hero. I had come here to pray at the place where my brother sacrificed his life. This place is a temple for me," the captain's brother Manmohan Pandey, who was accompanied by his mother, said.
Kargil, a ghost town during the war, was today abuzz with stories of valour and courage of Indian soldiers who took part in 'Operation Vijay´ as their famillies descended here to take part in two-day celebrations to mark the victory.
"It was a dream for us to visit the holy place and pray for our son," Neiselie Kenguriise, father of Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguriise who sacrificed his life when he led a platoon to re-capture Tololing, said.
As they took a glimpse of Tololing ridgeline, tears welled in the eyes of Neiselie, his wife Dinuo and daughter.
Praising his junior Captain Vikram Batra for his bravery in the battlefront in Drass sector where he laid down his life, Colonel Gurpreet Singh, Commanding Officer of 13 Jammu and Kashmir (JAK) rifles, said his unit won many awards.
"Our unit 13 JAK rifles achieved the title of brave among the bravest as it won two PVCs in Kargil battle", Col Singh, who was then a Major, said.
Captain Batra and Lance Naik Sanjay Kumar had won PVCs for their gallantry and both belonged to 13 JAK rifles.
As many as 533 jawans and army officers laid down their lives while re-capturing 13 hill points from Pakistani troops and 86 of them got PVCs, MVCs and VCs for the Kargil war.
During the two-day "Operation Vijay" celebrations, all re-captured heights would be lit up. Photo exhibition, beating retreat and felicitation of war awardees will be the other highlights of the programme to be held in Drass and Kargil areas of the Ladakh region.
"It is memorable event. I would say it is an honour for me to be part of this event here," Malik said as he inaugurated the Vijay Dashmi memorial in Drass, which has been thronged by 200 families of martyrs and 86-chakra awardee.
"During the celebrations, 16 events will take place in Drass and Kargil areas," a senior army officer told PTI.
Though Defence Minister A K Antony is not scheduled to take part in the events, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor will be in Kargil on Sunday.