KUALA NERUS: In 1974, while on patrol in a forest in Baling, Kedah, Othman Bashah Saleh who was attached to the Royal Malay Regiment fell into a booby trap set by the communists that shattered the bones of his right sole.
It has been 48 years since the incident that left a three-inch scar on his sole, but to Othman Bashah, now 74, it feels like yesterday.
"The booby trap was made of milk cans filled with various sharp objects such as glass and steel. When I stepped into the trap, I couldn’t feel anything and could still fight he communists.
"When our platoon took shelter in an area another soldier saw the shoes I was wearing were split in half. It was after taking off the shoes and seeing that my foot was covered in blood that I realised what had happened and that’s when I felt the pain,” he said when met by Bernama at his home in Seberang Takir, near here.
Since then he would experience pain starting from his feet up to his waist, especially during the wet season and cold weather.
Othman Bashah said it was not the only unforgettable incident that he had experienced because in 1977 he witnessed his platoon head, a young lieutenant whom he called Tuan Hamid being shot from a close range by the communists.
He said on that fateful day, they were in Gunung Bintang, located on the border of Kedah and Perak, to find water when they came across a group of communists eating durian.
"When they realised our presence, they started to shoot Tuan Hamid who was standing in front of me. I managed to drop to the ground, while another soldier behind me got shot through his thigh,” he said, adding that a communist was killed in the shootout.
Othman Bashah who was born in Parit Buntar, Perak advised the people especially youngsters not to be too preoccupied with the distractions of modern times, adding that they should strive to serve the country.
"When I was young, joining the army to eliminate the communists after the country gained independence was a way to serve the nation,” said the veteran who had served in the army from 1970 to 1990.
Even a small act of kindness such as cleaning graves has a huge impact on the community and country, he added.
The senior citizen who receives a monthly pension of RM900 is now working at a food stall for a daily wage alongside his wife Noriah Mohd Kassim, 73. - Bernama