The entire nation is praising the sacrifices made by the Indian troopers during the 1999 Indo-Pak Kargil war by observing 18th Kargil Vijay Diwas.
The war heroes stories are enough to fill the heart with pride and one such story is of the then flight officer Gunjan Saxena, the only female Indian Air Force pilot during the Kargil war. She fought courageously and portrayed an episode when she encountered a narrow escape on combat duty.
Gunjan has grown up in the family of fighters and was ready to give all for his nation.
"Ever since childhood, I was very clear that I wanted to fly. At that time, nobody believed me, but my family was very supportive. It was also familiar ground — my father and brother were both in the army. I was in college in Delhi when the IAF decided to accept women pilots — I applied," Gunjan told DNA.
Graduated from Delhi University's Hansraj College, Gunjan in 1994 was one of the 25 young women who formed the first batch of women IAF trainee pilots.
In the first week of June 1999, Gunjan landed in Kargil as a flight officer.
Her unit was based in Udhampur, Jammu.
"We had two main tasks — to evacuate casualties and do aerial recces of the area," DNA quoted Gunjan as saying.
It was not an easy job to be deployed in rugged terrain of the area.
It was a time when Indian Air Force already lost a helicopter and its four-member crew to missiles fired from the ground some time earlier. "We were sitting ducks," says Gunjan.
"They were in an advantageous position and there was nothing that would shield my aircraft."
Infact, Gunjan had a narrow escape after being hit once during a sortie and she was clueless that her helicopter was fired upon.
"The helicopter I was flying was fired upon, but it was not visible to me. It was only reported to me later on."
The Indian Army lost over 500 officers, soldiers and jawans during the war.
Gunjan now lives in Jamnagar with her husband who is also an IAF pilot and she left the force in July 2004 after the birth of her daughter.