DUBAI // The UAE flag was raised after a minute’s silence in tribute to the country’s heroes, and Obaid Al Qasbi’s heart swelled with patriotism and pride.
Mr Al Qasbi, 70, an Emirati from Dubai, watched along with hundreds of others as Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, hoisted the country’s flag at the Commemoration Day ceremony at Zayed University.
“This day is one that softens our hearts,” the retired policeman said. “This is part of our culture to support such bravery. I ask God to support and protect all of them, wherever they are.”
Mr Al Qasbi is familiar with military life, with almost every man in his family serving in uniform, including his son, 25.
“And if they need me, I will go,” he said. “In the past, it was very difficult to live here or move from one point to another but today, I thank God for the leaders we have.
“They have given us so much to make our life easier so it’s only right we give back to them in any way we can.”
The ceremony was also emotional for Sarah Alzaabi, whose cousin was injured while serving with the Armed Forces in Yemen.
“Thankfully, he came back safe,” said Ms Alzaabi, 26. “These martyrs gave their lives and their efforts for the UAE to be safe. It’s so touching and we have to remember them and what they did for the country.
“We’re grateful and thankful for them and we wish their families good luck, hoping all the others come back safe.”
Her 27-year-old friend, Salwa Alrais, said: “We are attached to our country and we are passionate about it because it has achieved so much for us.
“We are all loyal to our country and our Rulers because they put in so much effort to improve the country and make sure it’s the safest place to live in. These people are our pride because they protected us and gave their souls for us.”
Sarah Al Blooshi’s brother, 18, went straight into the military from school as part of his national service.
“He was there for six months and now he wants to go back,” said Ms Al Blooshi, 22. “It was good for his discipline and it strengthened his loyalty to his country.
“He learnt how to take responsibility and defend himself, so I fully support it and I am so proud of him.”
Fatma Al Attar, 18, felt sad at the loss of the country’s heroes but at the same time proud of their achievements.
“My 18-year-old cousin is in the military and I feel so proud,” the Emirati said. “This day is in memory of the people who sacrificed themselves for our country. They’re still in our hearts and we will always remember them.”
Others felt military service should have been introduced years ago.
“I have a lot of friends in the military,” said Fatma Al Qasimi, an Emirati faculty member at Zayed University.
“It’s great because it teaches young people how to be more independent and how to protect themselves, as well as the country.
“They learn so many skills by going through this training. This day is significant for us because we have to remember our martyrs and how much they sacrificed for the country, for our safety and the peace of the UAE.”