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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

It is high time we thanked our Armed Forces

We should never forget that there are women and men who dedicate and risk their lives to ensure we can enjoy ours

The presence of our Armed Forces is felt now more than ever, be it within our media, through our leadership or within our communities. Courtesy Crown Prince Court
The presence of our Armed Forces is felt now more than ever, be it within our media, through our leadership or within our communities. Courtesy Crown Prince Court

During our break in the United States this summer, my family and I paid a visit to Sea World in San Diego, California. Our youngest son Abdullah is obsessed with marine life. We settled into the main arena with our snacks for the dolphin show. One of the trainers who makes the dolphins perform tricks then approached the microphone to make an announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, before we begin our show, we would like to pay tribute to all the men and women in our military. May I ask you all to stand up?”

As members of the military in the crowd started to rise, the entire arena erupted into cheers and applause for the men and women who dedicate their lives to their country. It was as if we had all gathered for them to be celebrated as the entertainment and dolphin show became a distant second on our list. It was a beautiful thing to see.

After getting back home to northern California, I mentioned the experience to a fellow classmate who was studying with me at the time, herself a former member of the United States military. She said that such an experience was not as uncommon as I would think and that members of the military are held in high regard within communities and society at large. When they walk around in their uniforms in public, they are often greeted with smiles, kind gestures and words like “thank you for your service” from random strangers.

A discussion with a few Emirati soldiers who had previously trained and done courses in America revealed how members of the Armed Forces often get discounts at shops and movie theatres. It is society's way of saying: "You are dedicating your life to our safety and security, so while you are among us, you are going to feel special; we are going to take care of you."

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As I walk around the UAE these days, I all too often see youth who serve in the military either heading to camp in their uniforms or sporting their shaved heads under their traditional head garments on the weekends. Their deep brown tans makes their white robes seem even whiter. When I am out running errands at government departments, I regularly see members of the Armed Forces sporting the same look. Given the current geopolitical situation, which runs in parallel with the now three-year-old military service requirement, the presence of our Armed Forces is felt now more than ever, be it within our media, through our leadership or within our communities.

The leadership of the UAE has spared no effort in supporting their armed forces and more importantly, highlighting how critical their role is in the security and sustainability of the country. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who was himself an officer in the UAE’s elite security force, the Amiri Guard, as well as a pilot in the Air Force, regularly visits officers of the Armed Forces to connect with them, voice his support for them and hear their thoughts and concerns. Senior members of the royal family continue to personally visit the families of soldiers who have lost their lives fighting for their country.

For the leadership of our country, our armed forces are close to their hearts and no expense is spared to ensure they are taken care of and their matters treated with the utmost importance.

I think it is time that citizens, residents, communities and the private sector do the same.

The ideas they have come up with to honour our soldiers are endless, from expanding on special rates at commercial stores, restaurants, malls and entertainment venues like cinemas through the Homat Al Watan incentive card created by the Ministry of Defence to instating fuel and energy subsidy cards for military personnel who have to travel.

Members of the military are recognised and announced during events so that the crowds can cheer and applaud their dedication, perhaps making it the norm for us as individuals, residents and citizens to greet a soldier in uniform with a smile and thank them for their service.

The UAE is home to almost every nationality in the world. We have built a society that is vibrant, tolerant and has used the spirit of camaraderie, despite differences in culture and religion, to build a country in which anything and everything is possible and one in which families can build homes, create better futures for their children and live in peace and dignity. We should never take these things for granted and more importantly, we should never forget that there are women and men in our armed forces who dedicate and risk their lives to ensure we can keep on living this way every day, so it wouldn’t hurt to take a few seconds out of our day to thank them for it.

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