The 1962 War is a poignant reminder to acknowledge just how much is owed by so many, to just a 'few'. These 'few' were those who stood to the 'last man, last bullet'.

Noting the hand given to the Indian Army materially and politically, the TIME magazine had observed on the prevailing situation then, "fighting has shown that the Indians need nearly everything, except courage". For the Indian volunteers to the profession-of-arms their self-imposed 'unlimited liability' towards timeless adjectives like duty, honour, courage, integrity and selfless service was a civilisational code and truth.

The 1962 war was just another duty-bound call to honour, irrespective of the personal cost and the end result.

Exactly 60 years to this date, stood one such unsung colossus, who didn't return home, clearly, freedom isn't free. It is often a forgotten debt that can frankly never be fully repaid.

Since time immemorial, fierce and noble Rathore warriors have established a saga of indomitable courage, supreme sacrifice and an unmatched talent for war. To this cauldron of instinctive soldering was born, Lt Bikram Singh Rathore (6 Kumaon), a revered family elder who remains an inspiration to our proud Military family to keep the faith and stand tall, irrespective.

However, besides patriotism and pride, Military families are also freighted with irresolvable wounds, personal losses, and an occasional sense of being taken for granted and forgotten, especially considering the unparalleled valour and price involved. This weighty sentiment personifies our Military family, 60 years since Lt Bikram Singh Rathore paid that ultimate price, willingly.

Within the family, generations have served the nation with great dignity, elan and much combat decoration in all wars and combat engagements since/before Independence. Each combatant tried to live up to the hallowed standards of Lt Bikram Singh Rathore's daredevilry and heroics.

Bikram had followed the well-marked footsteps of his ancestors and joined the National Defense Academy (NDA) in 1956, and acquitted himself as a natural horseman and accomplished polo player. His sheer physicality, impressive bearing and thoroughbred conduct attracted the attention of the equally cavalier clansman, Lt Gen K Bahadur Singh (Kumaon Regiment) who talked out Bikram from opting for Rajput Regiment, as Lt Gen K Bahadur Singh wanted the fine specimen for his own Regiment. So Bikram was to join the much decorated and illustrious band of Bullas, the Kumaonis.

In the bloody Battle of Walong, Lt Bikram Singh Rathore was to forefront what was arguably the only counterattack of its ferocity, intensity, and Chinese fatalities, in the 1962 War. When the politicians and many of their interfered/preferred leadership within the 'Uniform' had capitulated to the Chinese fate, it was left to the ramrod steel and fire of the young leadership in the Indian Armed Forces to never give up and ensure a fight that the Chinese would remember, for posterity.

It wasn't the proverbial 'wall' of Himalayas that guaranteed the Indian sovereignty as much as the 'few' (completely outnumbered and ill-equipped) hardy men of battalions like 6 Kumaon, 2 Rajput, 4 Dogras, 1 Sikh etc., who defied all known limits of combat endurance and resistance.

The 6 Kumaon was subjected to a brutal and full-frontal 'wave' style attack of the Chinese and the doughty Kumaonis fought back in the true spirit of Parakramo Vijayate (Valour triumphs) – the raw fury of the 'creed of the maneaters' (Kumaon Regiment's motto) knew no bounds as they roared 'Kalika Mata Ki Jai' and kept counterattacking, ambushing and deterring the Chinese offensive.

Bikram and his band of fearless Bullas inflicted 200 Chinese casualties. As the war dragged on, supplies and support for the Indian line of defense waned, paltans like 6 Kumaon and individuals like Bikram Singh Rathore still stood staring the enemy in the eye, just like their forefathers had done for eons.

Later, Bikram was tasked to defend a key feature and was surrounded by 300 Chinese, it was an impossible situation, but Bikram contacted his Brigade Commander, Brigadier NC Rawlley MC, and told him that he would fight to the end, come what may.

This wasn't cheap talk or empty bravado as Bikram had repeatedly stared death in the face during the 27 days of relentless battle, as days earlier he had written a letter home, explicitly stating, "Don't worry at all. Traditions of our race can never be forgotten. I have killed many to avenge my comrades. I will kill more till the b…. finish up".

He fought as only a true warrior could, he was the last man standing of the 107 men of his paltan who were martyred (16th Nov 1962). By not retreating, even though he knew the consequences of his brazenness was a conscious decision as Bikram had given his word, and that had to be honoured at all costs.

Such warriors are cut of a different cloth and the unbelievable odds faced by Bikram and his band of Kumaonis was ironically recognised by the Chinese who admitted to substantial losses, but somewhere in the larger din of the loss in 1962 – Bikram's personal valour went unrecognised institutionally, even though his personal legend reverberated within his paltan and in the odd survivor who lived to tell the tale.

He was virtually left to engage in hand-to-hand combat after he had exhausted all ammunition and supplies and was ultimately run over. Many of us who have been in various combat situations in the thick of battle and have seen/read various citations of valor, still wonder as to how Lt Bikram Singh Rathore's simply unmatched heroics in the annals of combat history, went unrecognized.

His battle account is not hagiography but an historical record of the timeless never-say-die spirit, till the end. Perhaps the national pathos, shame and hurt of 1962 didn't help matters, even though Bikram's own Brigade Commander Brig NC Rawlley MC commented bluntly, "He (Bikram) held on as long as humanly possible. Very few men from his Company managed to escape. The bulk of them were killed and wounded on the hill.

Under his courageous and gallant leadership the men fought until all their ammunition was exhausted and they were completely overrun. Bikram's message to me over the wireless was that he would hold on and not withdraw. He has fulfilled these words to the limit". Later Lt Gen K Bahadur Singh stated movingly, "Bikram died but like a gallant Rajput on a battlefield". Yet 60 years later, a Yodha (warrior) deserving of nothing less than a Param Vir Chakra (PVC) went to his Valhalla, sadly unsung and unrecognized.

Years later, when Bikram's younger brother Narender Singh Rathore was to answer his own calling in the Indian Army – he marched up to the same Lt Gen K Bahadur Singh and requested for something that the grand General immediately understood and appreciated, Narender Singh Rathore too joined the bloodline of 6 Kumaon.

The short but glorious life of Lt Bikram Singh Rathore are reminders of the true strength of the sacred idea called 'India'. It is like Senator John McCain's daughter, Meghan, noted about her warrior father that he was, "the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served. He was a great fire who burned bright". Despite the overall outcome of 1962, Lt Bikram Singh had to pay the unsaid price for the indignity of India's politicians and diplomats, when he himself did everything to make his own conscience, his family's legacy, his Kumaon Regiment's honor, and the dignity of the nation, supreme.

Today the family treats a memorial dedicated to the 'unknown soldier' at a height close to Walong town as the sanctum sanctorum of Bikram's gallant memory. As the anonymous saying goes, "Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it."

It was Lt Bikram Singh's last breath in service of his revered motherland, to whom we owe our freedom, and it is to him we owe that duty to never forget. Ever.

Sixty years since the Battle of Walong, 6 Kumaon justifiably reflects, remembers, and celebrates it sons who gave their everything, just as Lt Bikram Singh's family has done every day since he finally fell, and just as the nation should do it, even if very belatedly.

Lt General Bhopinder Singh (Retired) is former Governor Andaman and Nicobal Islands & Puducherry.