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HomeDEFENCEReal life heroes are the ones who keep going... against all odds

Real life heroes are the ones who keep going… against all odds

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Former Gentleman Cadet Navin Gulia IMA, now a World Record Holder

For a soldier, facing danger and hardships are all a part and parcel of the work profile. It requires tremendous amounts of inner and moral strength to face and withstand danger and overcome fear. History is rich with many stories of the bravest of the brave, disabled and war wounded stalwarts who overcame their physical challenges to carve success stories for themselves – damn the disabilities.

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Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi

Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi, lost his right leg in the Indo – Pak War in 1965 but chose to soldier on in his regiment- the Maratha Light Infantry. In the next 40 years of his service, he went on to become DGMO and GOC of a Strike Corps and Army Commander of the prestigious Army Training Command as well as Western Command. He then went on to adorn the post of Vice Chief of Army Staff.

He also held a diplomatic assignment at Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and was an International Fellow of the U S Army War College. In his post –retirement life he is actively promoting the cause of War Wounded soldiers in his capacity as President of the War Wounded Foundation. He has been Director of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), a ‘Think Tank’ based at New Delhi.

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Maj-Gen Ian Cardozo

The story of Maj-Gen. Ian Cardozo is no less inspiring. An officer of the 5th Gorkha Rifles (FF), Gen Cardozo wasseverely wounded in a mine blast after being heli-dropped behind enemy lines in the Sylhet Sector during the Indo-Pak War 1971. He cut off his injured foot with his khukhri and stayed with his battalion throughout the battle. The first officer with an artificial leg to command a battalion and a Brigade, he went on to command a division and retired as Chief of Staff of a Corps. He is now a social activist, author, and military historian. His books, “Paramvir: Our Heroes in Battle” and “The Sinking of INS KHUKRI” have received both critical and popular acclaim. He also wrote the widely popular comic books series on Param Vir Chakra – an inspirational work. Both Gen Oberoi and Cardozo are a part of the War Wounded Foundation and assist war wounded personnel in leading useful & productive lives and becoming financially independent.

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Like them, there are many others who overcame their disabilities to attain their aims. Y.N. Sharma, ‘Yogi,’ rose to be a Lt Gen after losing his leg in 1971 War, so did late Lt Gen P S Joshi, who lost both legs in 1965 war in Sikkim. He not only triumphed over his disability true to the spirit of a soldier but also became the first Chief of Integrated Defence Staff.

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DP Singh
Major D.P Singh

Indian Blade Runner, Major D.P Singh, is a Kargil war survivor and the first amputee marathon runner in India. He was “declared dead” during the Kargil war in an Army Hospital in July 1999. He survived and returned 14 years later as India’s first Blade runner. He personifies the spirit of a true warrior – who never allows a handicap to bring him down. He underwent several surgeries in the hospital, but still his leg could not be saved and had to be amputated. The never say die attitude saw him through the ordeal. He was determined not to be treated like a victim. After being fitted with his “blade” he took up the challenge that life had thrown his way, and slowly got into shape, and went on to become India’s first Blade Runner. Major DP Singh has been taking part in Delhi’s half marathon every year. Running a marathon and representing India at the Olympics are on top of the agenda of this 37-year-old. He has completed eight-half marathons till date and is a double Limca record holder.

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Capt. Sachin Bali

A similar story is that of Capt. Sachin Bali who got injured while leading a rescue mission to evacuate some soldiers trapped in an avalanche in high altitude area. He suffered 3rd-degree frost bite in the minus 50 degrees C temperatures. He stayed in the hospital and rehabilitation care for almost a year and had to have two fingers of his right hand and toes of his right foot amputated. He chose to leave the army as he would not be able to do justice to his profession with his injuries. Crowned by a gallantry award and a commendation medal, he took out time to study for CAT, joined IIM Bangalore in 2005 and strode forth to start life afresh in the civil street as a banker. Sachin has now worked with some of the top financial institutions including HSBC, ABN AMRO Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Accenture before choosing to become an entrepreneur. He has started a website ww.sachmuch.com with an Army course-mate. They raise funds for social causes and personal projects through crowd funding.

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Then there is Navin Gulia an Ex-Indian Army Cadet and a World Record Holder in adventure sports and multiple award winner. He is also an internationally acclaimed Author; Thinker, Orator, and Social Worker. An injury cut short the army career and left Cadet Gulia paralysed waist downwards. He had joined IMA on 11th of July 1994 but tragically on the final day of Obstacle Training, he got an accidental push on the high ramp due to which he fell head down at high speed. The next few days were critical. Every minute was a fight for survival, and he won every time. Like a true soldier, he fought his way through. Four months in the bed, totally immobile, he rediscovered his mental abilities. Staying in MH Kirkee, he did a Certificate of Proficiency in Computers Course with Aptech securing 99% marks. After being discharged from the hospital two years later, he cleared the entrance exam for MCM (Master’s Degree in Computer Management) from SICSR (Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Pune). After attaining his degree, he declined all corporate jobs and instead chose to teach computers to disabled soldiers and at the NDA. Today even though Navin has no sensation below his shoulders, he has taught himself to drive cars and motorised gliders. He is a recipient of many awards like the ‘National Role Model’ Award 2007; Times of India ‘Global Indian of the Year’ Award 2005; Limca Book ‘People of the Year’ Award 2005; State Award for Adventure Sports 2004; Chief of Army Staff Commendation 2005; Karmaveer Chakra 2009; CavinKare ‘Ability Mastery’ Award 2006; Indira ‘Youth Kranti’ Awards 2011; Godfrey Phillips ‘Mind of Steel’ 2010; Karmaveer Excellence Award 2012; CNN ibn ‘Real Heroes’ Award 2012; ‘Indian Pearl’ by The Week magazine 2012.

He continues his passion for adventure sports, modifying his cars to drive and flew powered hang gliders and micro light aircrafts. In September of 2004, he created a World Record in Adventure All-Terrain Driving by driving non-stop for 55 hrs to reach the world’s highest motorable mountain pass, the formidable Marsimik La at 18632 feet– a record that stands unbeaten till today.

He is the author of two motivational Best Sellers. His English book ‘In Quest of the Last Victory’ has been published by Pearson Longman and his Hindi book ‘Veer Usko Janiye’ has been published by Prabhat Prakashan. Navin runs an organization called ADAA ‘Apni Duniya Apna Ashiana’ (Our World Our Home), for the welfare of under-privileged children from the weaker sections of the society. His organization works for street children.

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No one deserves the title of a ‘hero’ more than Havildar Afsar Ali Khan of J&K Light Infantry, who lost his leg in a mine blast. He now runs an IOC lubes outlet at Kupwara, J&K, close to the Line of Control (LC). Naik Surendra Kumar of the 3 Parachute Regiment lost his left leg in a mine blast. Currently, he runs an Apollo Tyre dealership at Narnaul, Mahendragarh, Haryana. Havildar Lav Kishore Singh of 51 Engineers lost his left leg in a mine blast. He now runs an IOC lubes outlet at Darihat, Rohtash, Bihar.

Grit and determination are inherent traits of a soldier. Should he lose, limb or bone, these traits come to the fore even more strongly. Those who rise above their disability and carve out successful lives for themselves are the true success stories.

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Rashmi Oberoi
Rashmi Oberoi
Freelance writer and columnist


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