Navy operations officer Lim Woon Huat used to set sail regularly, spending about three months out at sea each year. His children would ask about his whereabouts, but due to the sensitive nature of the work, he could not share much.
“I’ll say sometimes, ‘(I) don’t know’. Sometimes, (I’ll say ‘It’s) classified. I cannot tell you too many things’,” said Major (Maj) Lim, 42.
It has been six to seven years since he was deployed on a ship — these days, he is stationed at Changi Naval Base.
A new series of children’s books published by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) to mark its 50th anniversary has helped men and women working in the navy, such as Maj Lim, show their loved ones a glimpse of their life at sea.
So far, two illustrated books have been published, with another two books expected to be ready by November this year.
“Indy! Indy! Indy!” — a play on the word “independence” — tells the tale of three generations of warships named RSS Independence.
“Papa Goes to Sea” is a tale of a little girl named Emily, who longs for her father who is out at sea. Standing on the deck of the frigate, her father gazes at the night sky, imagining the face of his daughter among the stars.
Maj Lim, who has been in the navy for 20 years, said it was easy to miss family and friends during the long periods out at sea. “If you have a long deployment, you’ll look out at sea … if the water is calm, you’ll see (the) horizon (forming a line). You’ll miss your family, you miss your friends.”
The books capture the work of navy officers in a “fun and creative” way, for instance, showing rescue missions for sailors and fishermen out at sea, said the father of four boys between the ages of three and 10.
Maj Tan Winnie, who authored the two books, said she drew on her personal experience in her writing.
In 2012, she sailed across the Pacific Ocean on the RSS Formidable on a 98-day deployment, braving tropical storms along the way. The dolphins and whales she saw at sea were featured in her stories.
On the rationale for the book, Maj Tan said: “A lot of parents found that they had inadequate means to talk to their kids about their work, what they do out at sea, and why they’re away from home for so long.”
“This book was just a good opportunity for them to bond over some pictures of what the parents do out at sea and why they do it,” said the 30-year-old staff officer in the joint operations department.
The books will be distributed to all navy personnel when ready, and given out at childcare centres later this year.
Yesterday, Maj Tan and Maj Lim read the stories to Kindergarten 1 and 2 students — including his six-year-old son, Taveon — at a PCF Sparkletots Preschool in Bishan.
More storytelling sessions will be held at eight libraries between May 27 and June 3. The sessions are free, and members of the public can register at www.nlb.gov.sg/golibrary.
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