New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday termed the death of Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh a “great loss” to the country.

“The kinds of aircraft that he has flown, the positions that he held, the awards that he has received and number of years of service. Irrespective of that his retirement happened in 1970, after that too he kept himself very active,” Sitharaman said.

“It is very rare for any country to have a soldier of that kind of potential. It is a great loss for the country,” she said.

The minister said she was out of station on Saturday morning, and returned to Delhi at 3.30 p.m., after which she rushed from the airport to the Army Research and Referral Hospital where he was admitted.

“I was out of station, I had gone to the Western Command, and after returning at 3.30 from the airport I called the Air Chief and straight I went to the hospital. From there of course, we were in touch with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister also came, spoke with the family,” Sitharaman said.

“We hoped that he would recover and the family was very supportive, his son and daughter are coming.”

She said that the nation will have to recollect all the great things that are associated with him.

“He was active, was present at most public functions…He never thought he was a retired soldier. He was mentally and physically all around,” she said.

“Taking all his achievements very lightly on his shoulders…that kind of a conduct for a soldier is something, which I think, is exemplary and that is what is going to be etched in so many of our memories.

“Generations have seen him and that was the kind of energy that he carried with him,” Sitharaman added.

She said that Arjan Singh had flown 64 types of aircraft, and even at his old age, never missed a public function.

The minister also recollected that the nonagenarian would always stand up when the Prime Minister or President came.A

“There were several times when he would be seated and he would see the President or the Prime Minister of India, and he would get up to salute them. I have also seen Prime Minister Modi telling him that he should sit and he shouldn’t get up, he is such a senior officer, five star general, somebody who was so elderly… But still he would insist. He would never forget the decorum of a much acclaimed soldier who knows the value of what it is to be in the armed forces.

“That is something which in spite of his age, he would stand up Ato be a true soldier,” she said, adding, “That was what made people admire him.”

Arjan Singh died at the Army Research and Referral Hospital here on Saturday evening. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after suffering a massive heart attack in the morning. He was 98.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.