In a famous speech former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida gave at the National Defense Academy's graduation ceremony in February 1957, he had insightful advice to give about joining the Self-Defense Forces.

"It is possible that many of you may finish your career at the SDF without ever being thanked or welcomed by the people . . . because it is only when our nation is facing crisis and confusion, when we are attacked by foreign forces or when necessity arises for you to embark on disaster relief missions, that the people will appreciate and praise the SDF."

Yoshida's point has never been so relevant as Japan greets with open arms the relief work undertaken by more than 100,000 of the nation's 240,000 soldiers dispatched since the March 11 mega-quake and tsunami left more than 28,000 people dead or missing in eastern Japan.