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November 2, 1993. It was a normal day for Mrs. Apeksha. The previous day, she had a conversation with her husband, Major Upender Singh Gill, who was in militancy-torn Kashmir on deputation to 1 Rashtriya Rifles. He sounded cheerful and informed her that all is good at his end. In his absence, giving her company back in Jalandhar were their two cute little sons.
After a busy day of running her beauty parlor, Apeksha returned home. But there was a news waiting for her. She was informed that Major Gill has met with an accident.
“I thought he must have fallen or may have had a jeep accident — for I could never think of anything serious happening to my husband“, said Apeksha.
As people started to gather at her place, she got a call from another regiment officer who explained what had happened, “Major Gill has been seriously injured in an IED(Improvised Explosive Device) blast and has very limited chances of survival. And if at all he survives, he will be totally handicapped as his right side is badly affected.”
What Happened That Day
“It was a normal morning schedule to first open the highway to the Army convoy and then to dominate the built-up areas on and adjoining the highway so as to ward off any threat and militant action. While my party cleared the built-up area, the second party assumed positions along the river bank. The area of responsibility was just 5 km due to Bijbehara being a hot spot and hub of the militant movement. As per information gathered, there was a threat of an ambush. Most of the time IED (Improvised Explosive Device) is used to ambush. Along with two jawans, I started to check the berm of the road, trees and then moved to the first culvert and carried out the religious mandatory drill to ensure it was free of explosives. We found wires embedded in the ground — these devices had been buried earlier for if it had been a fresh implant one would have easily located it. I took the detective rod myself and started a visual check for tell-tale signs. The device, planted by Hizbul-Mujahedeen, was detonated 5 feet away from me by remote control as I learned subsequently.“, said Major Gill, as he recounts that day.
For Gill, the blast was a knock-out punch. “I regained consciousness immediately, heard gun fires and screams and cries for the stretcher.”
The Life After
When Apeksha reached Srinagar, the impact of the blast on him was too much to handle for her and she broke down. Major Gill’s face was just a mess of blood, mud, and flesh and was swollen to ten times its size. There was only one eye left, lips were totally gone, the tip of the tongue was blown, the index finger of the right hand was gone, while some were hanging loose. The pulse was dropping and he had to be given 18 units of blood.
He underwent a 20-hours of extensive surgery. His thumb and finger have been amputated. Lost his right eye. And the left eye was medicated. With time, his conditions improved with the reconstructive surgery for patching the right eye socket alongside the eye treatment. In April 1994, he was finally released from the hospital after five months, with many Dos and Don’ts for the eye.
For him, life was never going to be normal again. But his family accepted this fact and stood by him to help him walk through life once again with pride. “We are so grateful to God that my husband is alive, nothing else matters. Things could have been worse,” says Apeksha.
Like a true hero and a leader, he led his men from the front.
“The first and foremost is that once you are in uniform, it is your solemn duty to be an example to your subordinates, you have to lead from the front, you can’t be behind your men”, says retired Lt. Col. Gill.
We salute your undying spirit, dedication, pride, and your love for the country.