January 15th every year is commemorated as Army Day. On this day various publications and media houses carry stories about the valour, courage, bravery, and honour of those soldiers who laid down their lives for the nation.
Unfortunately, we don’t hear much about the army personnel who lose their lives outside the theatre of war – in equally formidable circumstances.
This story celebrates the life of Major Prateek Mishra – who lost his life in 2005. It is the story of his undying commitment and service-above-self attitude in the face of death.
Equally, it is also the story of a friendship that endured long after.
Major Prateek Mishra always wanted to serve the nation through the armed forces. Thus he joined the Officers Training Academy soon after he completed his college education. He was commissioned into the 7 Dogra Regiment.
On 8 October 2005 parts of India and Pakistan were left devastated by a high-intensity earthquake.
At that time, Major Prateek was posted in Uri – which is a forward base with a large number of army personnel. Due to its proximity to the epicentre, Uri was one of the worst affected locations on the Indian side that day.
Recounting the horrific incident, Smita Mishra, the sister of Major Prateek says, “ He [Major Prateek] was the commander of the post and they had returned from their night patrol. They were all resting in their bunkers when the earthquake hit. As soon they realised what was happening, they all ran out and so did my brother. Unfortunately, some of them, which included his base’s cook and other personnel, were still stuck inside the bunkers. For Prateek, being the commander, it was important that his people were safe and that he viewed this as his prime responsibility. He re-entered the bunkers and managed to get them all out safely. But the concrete structure collapsed on him as he was getting out.”
“Unfortunately that was the end of it for him. It took them hours to clear the rubble and get his body out. His body reached us seven days after this incident.”
Despite everything that has happened, Smita says, that if given a choice Major Prateek would most certainly choose the same life all over again.
And while that incident itself is a moving story of bravery, this incredible story has yet another, glowing, angle.
One of Major Prateek’s closest friends was his boyhood companion, Vijay. Having grown up together, both boys dreamt of joining the armed forces together. While Major Prateek cleared the examinations, Vijay was unable to.
In the excitement of their youth, they made a promise to each other – if something were to happen to any of them, the other would ensure that the parents were taken care of.
After Major Prateek’s death, Vijay not only honoured that promise but continues to do so to this day. Smita says,
“Vijay moved into my parents’ house 13 years ago and continued to live with them. Today he is married and has children of his own, but he still lives with them.”
Major Prateek’s death anniversary fell on 8 October. Each year, on that day, the family would have a ceremony of sorts at home. It usually was a sombre affair, which ended with tears and heartache.
However, eight years after his death things changed.
“Believe it or not, Vijay’s son was born on 8 October!”
“From that year onwards, we started planning birthdays and managing return gifts. It is amazing how life just moves on. It works in very mysterious ways,” Smita says.
Such stories of bravery in the face of adversity and enduring friendship must be celebrated!
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