‘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.”
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
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’