We are free and safe: salute those who keep us that way

National Service military personnel participate in a parade to mark the 40th anniversary of the UAE Armed Forces unification, and the graduation ceremony for the 5th batch of National Service personnel, at the Seih Al Hamah camp. Mohamed Al Suwaidi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
National Service military personnel participate in a parade to mark the 40th anniversary of the UAE Armed Forces unification, and the graduation ceremony for the 5th batch of National Service personnel, at the Seih Al Hamah camp. Mohamed Al Suwaidi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

Eid Al Adha is a time we spend with our closest and our loved ones. This Eid, however, I was far from home, far from family. It was nevertheless a cherished time, for I spent it in the company of those men and women whose solemn duty it is to protect all those I love at home from the threats that increasingly define the age we live in, wherever we live.

As dawn broke last Monday, I was privileged to offer Eid prayers alongside members of the Armed Forces deployed in a military base far from the borders of our great country.

We had flown to this outpost on foreign soil the day before, a media group given the extraordinary opportunity to meet some of our troops on duty abroad. On the plane, against the relentless noise from the engines, almost numbing after a while, I cleared my mind of preconceptions of what it was like on the ground. As the plane touched down, though, my thoughts began to concentrate on what to expect, who I was to meet and why I was spending this Eid with them.

That we were given a most generous welcome almost goes without saying. We were accorded the traditional Emirati hospitality, made especially poignant by the circumstance we were in. They showed us the base. They shared their meals with us. We shared stories and some light moments. Men and women of all ranks came together in a display of genuine friendship towards their visiting countrymen. And on the day of Eid itself, we prayed as one.

For me, I would soon climb aboard that noisy plane to return to the embrace of my family. For these men and women of our Armed Forces, however, there was tough work ahead before they would eventually return to their own families and friends. I could only imagine how much they were missing them. The presence of my group was no substitute, of course. Still, I hope that they might see in our presence the gratitude we – and the nation – hold in our hearts for their selfless devotion to duty and their undiluted dedication to keep us all safe.

For this, we must be unequivocal in our thanks, our respect and our admiration. Our troops serve with quiet strength, pride and professionalism. We can never adequately convey our gratitude to them. There can never be a surfeit of this.

We live in a world that is increasingly in one kind of peril or another. Many of these, we couldn’t even have imagined a decade or two ago. Our region is fractured by disorder and afflicted by social entropy. But the UAE remains a bastion of stability and tolerance, where every citizen can find the opportunity to grow and fulfill dreams. Indeed, we have the luxury to dream of our ambitions, when for too many in our region this has been so cruelly abreviated.

Sometimes, however, we take our bounty too much for granted. We forget that the stout base for this was laid down by the Founders of our union. And we are absent minded about the role of the military in preserving the integrity of our national foundation. Peace and stability are fragile things that require nourishment, care and nurturing.

As my group left our men and women in uniform, we did so with the duty to reflect on all we had seen. While we go through our daily life, safe in our freedom, we must give thanks at every opportunity for our troops’ tireless and selfless duty.

I am grateful for their warm reception. It was an experience that will forever remain etched in my memory. And I wish for our service men and women everywhere that they return home soon and safe.

malotaiba@thenational.ae

Published: September 18, 2016 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one