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Combat is an honor of a lifetime and I would not think of anything less. What better way to serve the nation

These are the inspiring words of our Kargil hero, Padmapani Acharya, who with his immense courage and valorism got us on the top of the Tololing Valley. The Battle of Tololing was one of the most crucial fights that India ever witnessed. Between India's armed forces and troops from Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry, there existed a menacing battle that ended in favour of the former taking control of the peak.

Major Padmapani Acharya was an officer of the Indian army and his service Number was IC55072. Acharya was born to a family who had their roots in Odisha but settled in Hyderabad. His father, Jagannath Acharya, was a wing commander of the Indian Air Force who served for the nation in the 1965 war and in the 1971 war with Pakistan. He also worked with Defence Research and Development Laboratory(DRDL) located in Hyderabad.

Acharya was given the post of Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Rajputana Rifles regiment. The Rajputana Rifles is the oldest military unit of rifle carrying infantry in the Indian Army. He graduated from the Officers Training Academy which is located in Madras.

Major Acharya was given the daunting task of capturing an enemy position as a Company Commander on the 28th of June,1999. The position was heavily mounded with mines and machine guns. Capturing this position was crucial for the success of the mission. There were some challenges for the Indian armed forces. The enemy fire that came down squarely on the leading platoon, inflicted large numbers of casualties. Without thinking about himself, Acharya took the forefront in his regiment and led it through raining artillery shells. With his men succumbing to injuries, he continued to encourage his men and answered the enemy fire with great resistance.

Major Acharya moved upwards crawling up to the enemy position and threw grenades at the enemy. During this battle, he was seriously injured. Even though he was struggling to move, he provided cover for his men and told them to charge ahead. Acharya’s troops took down the enemy and captured the important position which was crucial for India in the Kargil War. Sadly during his efforts to provide cover, he succumbed to injuries. He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra, posthumously for his brave efforts and contribution to the army.

It is important to note that the events of the Battle of Tololing were adapted in a Bollywood movie, LOC Kargil. In this movie, Actor Nagarjuna Akkineni portrayed the role of Padamanpani Acharya.

Dear Papa… don’t worry about casualties- it’s a professional hazard beyond our control. At least it is for a good cause. Tell mamma that combat is an honour of a lifetime and I could not think of anything less. What better way to serve the nation? Tell a story a day from the Mahabharata to Charu so that your grandchild imbibes good values

This was the last letter that Major Padmapani Acharya sent to his father during the Kargil War, ten days before the mission to capture the peak. Years later, his parents in an interview to a news channel expressed their views on the incident.

“You have to accept the inevitable and adjust accordingly. It is tough to digest, but we all are proud of him and miss him,” says his father Wing commander Jagannath Acharya.

His mother, Vimala Acharaya said, “ As a mother, I am definitely sad and hurt but as a patriot, I am proud of my son. He lives forever, whereas I will not. He made me promise that I would not cry when he left for the front.”

Maj. Acharya was survived by his parents, wife and a daughter who was born a few months after he passed away. Even after the death of Archaraya, his parents still wanted their grandchild, Aparajita to join the army.

“Now that the Army has opened its gates for women. I would love to see my granddaughter join the Army,” said Wg Cdr Jagannath Acharya.

Hopefully the message that Padmapani Acharya was trying to convey through his letter will inspire those who aspire to serve in the Indian armed forces. Acharya, a true patriot, was a courageous and selfless soldier of Indian army and the nation salutes him.

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