• E Thomas Joseph was Second Lieutenant with the First Battalion of Fifth Gorkha Rifles.
• He laid his life for the country fighting insurgents on 12 June 1992 in Nagaland.
• The young officer was cremated at Chakhabama in Kohima.
As the wife of a retired military personal from Kottayam in Kerala, travelling has been part of Thressiamma's life. But her journey to Nagaland last week was probably the longest and the hardest of all. At Kohima, she saw the grave of her only son E Thomas Joseph, a slain soldier, for the first time after his martyrdom in 1992.
Now, thanks to the efforts of the martyr’s batchmates at Indian Military Academy, the mortal remains of Thomas Joseph was exhumed and brought back to his home state after 24 years. His last rites will be performed again in a Church at Kottayam.
The events date back to 12 June 1992. Joseph, a young Second Lieutenant, had just completed a year with the First Battalion of Fifth Gorkha Rifles and was all set to embark on a journey back home when the news of a fresh insurgency broke. Quite familiar with the terrain, the officer volunteered to go with his unit. Unfortunately, he was killed in the fight with the militants that evening.
Due to situational constrains, Joseph’s body was laid to rest at Chakhabama in Kohima district. The only family member present was his devastated father Subedar Major A T Joseph, who was serving the army in Shillong then. Joseph's mother Thressiamma and two sisters could not attend his final rites.
Life was never the same for Joseph and his family after the tragedy. Unable to come to terms with son's demise, Joseph's father took voluntary retirement from the force and returned to Kottayam. Thressiamma's grief of not being able to get a last glimpse of her son haunted the family for years.
With age-related ailments, the couple had almost given up hope to visit the place one day, until they received an intimation from their late son's batchmates who wanted to visit the old couple to give away a memento to facilitate their son's supreme sacrifice.
The officer who travelled to Kottayam to meet the family learned that Joseph's mother had never seen her son's grave in all these years. Soon, Joseph's batchmates at Indian Military Academy swung into action.
The obstacles were many; Joseph's parents were too old to take up the long journey. There were financial constrains, and finally, the location of the grave had long been forgotten. But the men were determined to fulfil the mother's sole wish. Each member of the alumni group rose to the occasion by generously contributing for the trip. The Indigo Airlines management decided to sponsor the travel of Joseph's parents and sisters from Kochi to Dimapur. And finally, the grave was located.
After 24 years, Joseph is finally returning home, a journey that had to be suspended due to an emergency would finally be completed. His remains would be buried with full military and religious honours at Mar Sleeva Church at Kanjiramattom on Friday.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:35 PM IST