After three decades of service in the army and postings in difficult areas and terrains, retired armyman Surendra Kumar Sahoo of 19th infantry in Baramula proudly declares the “Kargil War is the glorious feather in my cap as a soldier”.
As the country celebrates the Kargil Vijay Divas today, the 52-year-old war hero recalls the turbulent days when he had put his life on the line fighting the enemy forces.
“It was a close shave for us on innumerable occasions. I had providential escape from claws of death. It was God’s grace and prayer of near and dear ones that I could survive against all odds,” he recalled.
Memories of war in the hostile hilly terrain and snow-clad mountains are still deeply etched in the memory of Sahoo, who i from Chanchunia village in this district.
“We had to wage battle against both the Pakistani forces and inhospitable weather condition. We had to trek through miles of snowy layers amid minus temperature. However, indomitable willpower to get the better of the enemy led our forces to emerge victorious,” he says.
He recalls the team spirit and soaring patriotic fervor of his unit.
“The war lasted for sixty days. I was at the battlefront for more than a month. Our unit had razed to ground a number of Pak bunkers and we also killed Pak soldiers by grenade attack in Drass sector.
“Our unit did effective use of artillery and machine guns besides grenades. The enemy forces were no match to our superior arms power,” he said.
He took a break from army job in 2015 after rendering service to the country for three decades in Kashmir, Punjab, Leh and Siachen sectors.
“The Kargil war was the glorious feather in my cap as a soldier. Now, I am living in my village and drawing a monthly pension of Rs 30,000. I am happy the Union government accepted our demands of One Rank One Pension last year,” said Surendra.
He was decorated with five medals, including ‘Operation Vijay’ medal, for his heroic work during the Kargil War and for his services in Siachen sector.
For the people of Chachunia and its nearby areas, Surendra Kumar Sahoo is their role model.
More than a dozen youths from the area have made their way to defence and para-military force jobs. They were inspired by war-hero Surendra, said a local Ramakant Swain.