At Wahat Al Karama on Thursday there was grief, pride and memories of lost loved ones who died in the line of duty
'I am so proud of my son:' Families of Emirati martyrs remember their 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 volunteered 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 who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Many of the recent dead lost their lives in Yemen but others died as Abdulaziz, who had four children, did 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 to the smallest detail.
“It was around 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,” said Mr Al Naqbi.
“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 up with tears when he speaks of that day.
“They got the coastguards 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 fulfiling his duty and in service of his country,” he said.
Khamees Mussabah, 45, died in 1988, when the plane he was in crashed outside 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,” says Adel, who was only seven when his father died.
Adel, 39, a firefighter, says that even though it has been more thirty years, he “remembers everything”
“I haven’t forgotten a thing. His face, his voice, his laugh,” he said.
Adel's grandfather, also named 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 role has taken on new meaning.
“When he died, yes the rulers visited it 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 her son’s last words before his death was 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 fulfiling his dream,” she said.