‘I am so proud of my son’ ... fam­i­lies of Emi­rati mar­tyrs re­mem­ber loved ones


Khamees Al Naqbi’s son died a decade ago dur­ing a res­cue mis­sion at sea, but he re­mem­bers it as though it were yes­ter­day.

Ab­du­laziz or­dered to help find a lost swim­mer and was him­self washed over the side of a boat off the coast of Fujairah. The 31-year-old’s body was never found.

But the brave young man who ven­tured into the stormy wa­ters that day will never be for­got­ten by his proud fam­ily.

As they sat with quiet dig­nity at the Wa­hat Al Karama war me­mo­rial in Abu Dhabi on Thurs­day, fam­i­lies re­mem­bered their own mar­tyred sons and fa­thers and those of the Emi­ratis around them.

The coun­try’s lead­ers stood be­fore the me­mo­rial on Thurs­day to hon­our those brave cit­i­zens who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for their coun­try. Many of the re­cent dead lost their lives in Ye­men, but oth­ers, like Ab­du­laziz, who had four chil­dren, died help­ing oth­ers or in train­ing mis­sions at home or abroad. All are re­mem­bered with the same rev­er­ence.

Mr Al Naqbi, 65, can re­call the day his son died in 2009 down to the small­est de­tail.

“It was about eight in the evening and it was so cold. The waves were very high and I just had a gut feel­ing that some­thing was not right. It rained a lot that day,” Mr Al Naqbi said.

“A man was drown­ing in the sea so Ab­du­laziz went out on a speed boat. But be­cause of the weather that day he drowned. His col­leagues sur­vived,” said the fa­ther, whose eyes still fill with tears when he speaks of

that fate­ful day. “They got the coast­guard and the divers out. They spent months look­ing for his body,” he said.

“But I am proud that my son died for his coun­try. The pur­pose of life is to serve God fore­most and then your coun­try. Ab­du­laziz died ful­fill­ing his duty and in ser­vice of his coun­try,” he said.

Muss­abah Khamees, 45, died in 1988, when the plane he was in crashed near Dubai dur­ing a train­ing mis­sion.

His son Adel was at the ser­vice to re­mem­ber him. He said Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day is im­por­tant to his fam­ily.

“To me it means fa­ther­hood,” said Adel, who was only seven when his fa­ther died.

Adel, 39, a fire­fighter, said that even though it has been more than 30 years, he “re­mem­bers ev­ery­thing”. He said: “I haven’t for­got­ten a thing. His face, his voice, his laugh.”

Adel’s grand­fa­ther, also named Muss­abah Khamees, said: “Even though you can never for­get your son, Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day re­vives his mem­ory and that of our loved ones.”

In those days, Adel said, the recog­ni­tion was not as it is to­day, and that the role ser­vice­men and women play to­day has taken on new mean­ing.

“When he died, yes the Rulers vis­ited us, but there was noth­ing like this,” he said.

“The fam­ily mourned silently and as a child I wanted and wished for more. To­day my wish has come true and my fa­ther is be­ing recog­nised for the hero he was.”

Maryam Al Manaei, 46, lost her son Mo­hamed Al Dha­heri, 22, when his plane crashed in Ye­men in 2016. She said the mil­i­tary spent two weeks look­ing for his re­mains. “I kept ex­pect­ing them to find him and for him to walk in the door,” she said.

“Will you be­lieve me when I tell you that when they told me that they found his body, I didn’t be­lieve he was dead and I still don’t?

“To me, my son is still with me. I have never for­got­ten him for a sec­ond. He didn’t die.”

She said that Mo­hamed’s last words to her be­fore his death were about him seek­ing her per­mis­sion. “He asked me how I would feel if he died a mar­tyr de­fend­ing his coun­try,” she said.

“I told him that it was the most no­ble way to die and if God in­tends for him to die a mar­tyr then it would hap­pen.

“Peo­ple die in car ac­ci­dents and in dif­fer­ent ways. I’m happy that he died serv­ing his coun­try and ful­fill­ing his dream.”

Hamad Al Kaabi / Min­istry of Pres­i­den­tial Af­fairs

Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, Vice Pres­i­dent and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mo­hamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the UAE Armed Forces, with, from right, Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla, Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, Sheikh Hamad bin Mo­hammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah, Sheikh Hu­maid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Aj­man, Dr Sheikh Sul­tan bin Mo­hamed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Shar­jah and Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, at a Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day cer­e­mony at Wa­hat Al Karama in Abu Dhabi on Thurs­day

Pho­tos Chris Whiteoak / The Na­tional

Rulers and se­nior of­fi­cials at­tended the Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day cer­e­mony at Wa­hat Al Karama

A 21-gun salute to the mar­tyrs was a cen­tral part of the cer­e­mony

Emo­tion over­takes a young Emi­rati dur­ing the Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day event

Khamees Al Naqbi at the Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day event at Wa­hat Al Karama. His son died a decade ago dur­ing a res­cue mis­sion at sea

Adel Khamees was only seven when his fa­ther Muss­abah died in a plane crash near Dubai. Adel said the Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day means fa­ther­hood to him

Mil­i­tary jets per­form a fly-by over Wa­hat Al Karama Hamad Al Man­souri / Min­istry of Pres­i­den­tial Af­fairs

A fam­ily united in grief, pride and re­spect for the he­roes of the coun­try

The event at Wa­hat Al Karama is a time for many fam­i­lies to re­flect on the pa­tri­o­tism and hero­ism of mar­tyred loved ones

Muss­abah Khamees said: ‘Even though you can never for­get your son, Com­mem­o­ra­tion Day re­vives his mem­ory’

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