Hall of Fame
By Kim Min Seo, Hwa Chong Institution
At precisely 2.30am, the officer struck a handheld grenade simulator known as a thunder flash and marked the start of ‘Breakout’ – the rite of passage to Hell Week. The blinding explosion galvanised all the trainers to pound on the wooden bunk doors, screaming unabatedly while tossing unguarded rucksacks and loose footwear down the corridors, sending befuddled trainees scrambling after them. Drugged with sleep and sagging under the weight of our olive-green packs, all of us crawled down the stairs on all fours, spilling onto the concrete parade square like a colony of evicted egg-carrying ants, to a drenching welcome with fire hoses. The worst was far from this.
The days in Hell Week were long and hard. By the fourth day I was not myself. Or so I thought. I couldnot think straight. I did not know if I were alive or dead, a zombie designed to do tasks given to me. All I thought was, if I didnot do this, I would die. Not that it mattered – maybe I was already dead. This was the mind-set I kept to keep myself from succumbing to the pain and the cold, and most importantly, the pressure I had beenunder for the past seven days.
On the seventh day, it was time for Surf Torture. All recruits were made to stand in a line in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean to test our grit in withstanding hardship. Everything had culminated to this final hurdle. The cold water crashed through the rocky reef, cutting into both our bodies and our minds like an icy dagger tearing into our heart. I gritted my teeth, bracing myself for another wave of pain that shocked my whole body. I was so cold, the water actually became warm. I couldnot feel my body – it was as if my body parts were all separated. They might as well have been.
Negative thoughts of giving up assaulted my brain like missiles barraging a target. The voice within me told me: “Freedom will be so sweet, don’t you think? Just walk away from this hell, and you can have all the freedom you want.” I pushed those thoughts away, those thoughts of giving up, those thoughts of neglecting my duties as a soldier. I thought of my comrades who were linked to me by the arms – I thought of those who had been kicked out on the first day due to just a small little loose thread – I thought of those who had supported me throughout this camp. I just couldnot fail them, especially when they had done so much for me, for the entire cohort.
Another wave hit us. It felt like a solid wall being pushed into our face. I nearly gasped out loud – the force of the wave knocked us backwards, just like pushing a solid frozen statue right in our face. Afraid that the instructors had noticed, we quickly covered our mouth. Nobody wanted to be pulled out, after everything that we had endured. We had bit the bullet and come so far. Nothing could stop us now.
“Give up now, good boy. Nobody wants you dead, do they?” The pessimistic voice of one of the officers came at the line of exhausted soldiers. His sarcasm was like the wave crashing into the shores. It tore away at every man’s iron defence, trying to get to his brain, to manipulate him, to make him quit. However, I knew better than that. My iron defence just got stronger, something I had learnt over the course of the last few days of Hell Week. When situations worsen, make yourself stronger. That was the one and only solution. That was the only solution, to survive, to remain sane and mostly – to prove oneself fit to be one of the world’s best soldiers: a naval diver.
Suddenly, I felt an arm slip away from us, one of us struggling to rise. Merely a microsecond later, I realised what he was doing – but it was too late. He slowly rose to his feet, his clothes dripping wet, and his eyes downcast with a haunted look to it. I knew what he had done and would do even as he stood. He had failed. It was that, and just that. No humiliation would be given, but no honour would be given in his defeat either.
The rest of us looked on with a sad look in our eyes as he slowly rose to meet the officer at the beach.
“Are you going to wake up tomorrow and regret what you’ve done?” the officer asked him gently.
“Yes,” the young man said, shaking uncontrollably and nearly in tears. “But I can’t take any more of the cold.”
After that, the failed recruitslowly walked towards the bench at the shores, watching us as the medical personnel checked his pulse and his body temperature. His silhouette screamed at all of us. As he walked away from the ice cold waters it seemed as though he had brought our determination away with him. Shiver even harder than before but I closed my eyes and listened closely to my heartbeat. There was still resolve in me. I gritted my teeth and lost myself in the numbing pain.
We did not know how long it had passed. A few other recruits had also rung the bell, unable to cope with the mental siege they were experiencing in their skull. I was tempted to join them, to rid myself of this unnecessary pain that I had to suffer through. I looked around, and was met with the same blank looks – the looks that told us that we were still fighting underneath the ice-biting water. This was what kept us going.
I knew it, we knew it, the whole world knew it – to be the best, we must go through the worst.
Hall of Fame
Secondary (Year 2)
“It is impossible to stop cyberbullying.” What are your views?
By Ryan Lim, Raffles Institution
Although the notion of wiping out cyber-bullying with the ever growing presence of smart phones, tablets and notebooks seems impossible at first, we should never say that something is unachievable. Man’s ability to use his intelligence for a greater good pulled us through The Dark Ages to rise from the ruins and into the Renaissance age—one of innovation and beauty. I never considered hurting someone behind a screen intentionally because values of online etiquette were cultivated in me by my teachers and family. Unity is important in spreading the message of the harmful effects of cyber-bullying before it spirals out of control. We do not want to see our children or our siblings take their life because of cyber-bullying. Someday our siblings or children may suffer the same fate as the victim we once tortured online. Before one types the prologue to the horror story that is cyber-bullying, as any good writer would do envision the epilogue.
Hall of Fame
Secondary (Year 3)
Teenagers are too young to go under the knife. Do you agree?
By Nicholas Kang, Catholic High School
Teenagers are too young to go under the knife as they might have unrealistic expectations about plastic surgery. They are not mature enough to know what they want and are unable to fathom the processes and implications of committing to plastic surgeries. They are still too immature to understand that the enhancements that they pursue now may be fashionable today, but they may not be trendy tomorrow. It is also worrying to know that the underlying reason for enduring pain, bleeding, stitches and having health risks is as superficial as wanting to look like their favourite idols. How can teens be so sure of the longevity of their adulation?