‘You can take soldier out of Army, but…’

Bengaluru: As the nation wakes up to a new morning on July 26, this also marks the day when a gritty Indian Army announced the eviction of Pakistani Army intruders after a two month long conflict in Kargil in 1999.

Major Rakesh Sharma (retd), Shaurya Chakra led a team of Bofors gunners into battle, knowing full well that there can be no runners-up in the war. The decorated officer remembers the battle in vivid detail.  

In the very first week of the operations, the Major recalls how he was deployed about 600 km away on the other side of the Pir Panjal ranges and how, at the very moment when he and his men were getting ready for lunch, the orders came to deploy to Kargil.

“With no time to prepare, we gave away our lunch to the villagers who came to help us load the heavy ammunition that was stored underground. As each one of us wanted to be in Kargil, we ensured that we were loaded and moved out by the end of the day. After travelling for three nights we crossed Zozila just past midnight and by 4 am in morning, we were pounding enemy locations,” said the Major.

Before going to the battle-field, Major Sharma recounts how a line from G.K.Chesterton played in his head – 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.'

Various tasks were allotted to his team that strived to stay one step ahead of the enemy, trying to dislodge him from their infiltrated positions with the accuracy of their firepower while maintaining an element of surprise.

He remembers the heavy casualties of soldiers in the conflict and the difficulty with which the Indian army climbed the treacherous heights. "Regaining those peaks at an average height of 12,000- 15,000 feet was an unparalleled feat. If to perform our Dharma there is a price to pay, so be it.  Though I am not in service anymore but we are still the same – brothers in arms," the Major said, recalling the bond with his comrades.

Having participated in Operation Prakaram, Operation Rakshak and in the 2003 counter insurgency operations for which he was awarded Shaurya Chakra, he finally hung up his uniform in 2004 but still lives by the old saying, "You can take the soldier out of the Army, but you can't take the Army out of the soldier."

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