Dignitaries and families come together in remembrance at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The memory of the UAE heroes who gave their lives serving their country, was remembered on Monday at the inaugural Commemoration Day in a ceremony attended by Royals, dignitaries and the families left behind.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, along with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah, Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, and the families of the fallen, during the inaugural Commemoration Day ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Rashed Al Mansoori / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
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ABU DHABI // Hamad Al Hashmi walked out of the Commemoration Day ceremony on Monday, his heart swelling with patriotism for the UAE and pride for his brother, Abdullah Al Jabri, who sacrificed his life for the country.

“It’s difficult but I am happy,” said Mr Al Hashmi, 26, who came from Ras Al Khaimah with his late brother’s three daughters, Mariam, 10, Aziza, 8, and Meera, 7.

Abdullah died fighting rebel forces in Yemen. The 31-year-old is also survived by a fourth daughter, Asmaa, who is a year old and stayed at home with her widowed mother.

Like many children who attended the ceremony, Meera wore a camouflaged soldier’s uniform. Others arrived in National Day dresses. Some young girls wore a custom-made fabric waistband bearing the images of the country’s leaders.

“All people are proud here,” Mr Al Hashmi said. “We are proud that we are able to do something for the country.”

The families of the fallen servicemen were bused from across the country to join the nation’s leaders in honouring the heroes on the site of what will be the Martyrs’ Memorial monument, adjacent to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

The ceremony started promptly at 11am with a military marching band and rows of soldiers parading on to the field, where they stayed for the remainder of the proceedings.

At 11.30am, a 21-cannon salute was fired as the audience stood in silence; military officers raised the nation’s flag from half mast to the top of the various poles around the property.

At 11.35am, fighter jets flew over the audience in the missing-man formation – with one jet pulling from the low-flying formation.

Following a speech from Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, head of the Federal National Council, the families were invited to walk on the field, where they were each received a folded flag, a medallion and a commemoration book.

“We are proud of these celebrations,” said Mr Al Hashmi.

“We are proud also because we are one of the families – we have a Shaheed.”

The ceremony helped unify the country, he said.

“We are a family. We are one family and as His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said, this is a united home – United Arab Emirates. We are a united home.

There is no difference between management – between His Highness, between the family, we are all together and we are proud of it.”

Following the ceremony, as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was driving away, he stopped his vehicle to get out and greet an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

They spoke for a few minutes before a 12-year-old girl from Ras Al Khaimah approached the Crown Prince and shed tears of joy as he kissed her forehead.

Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, acting director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, who was among the dignitaries in the audience, said the ceremony “touched everyone”.

“Seeing the connection between leaders and the community as one family – really, you see the feeling of the community, seeing the small girls crying for the loss of their family. It really touched the heart.

“They are our heroes and that’s why we are all here.”

rpennington@thenational.ae