Seven sheikhs from seven emirates gathered at the Wahat Al Karama monument in a sunset ceremony to pay tribute to the brave soldiers, pilots and sailors that died in the service of their country.
As the country marked the third Commemoration Day, the UAE is more “powerful, greater and determined than ever before” thanks to the contribution of servicemen who give their lives for the country, said Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
He said martyrs were “stars that lit the skies of the nation” and that Commemoration Day offered lessons in redemption, sacrifice and defending the homeland.
“Sacrifices of our martyrs have formed a national dimension manifested in the unity of the house and cohesion of the family,” tweeted Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed after the ceremony.
“With the sacrifices and giving of its sons, the UAE today is more powerful, greater and determined than ever before.”
He then thanked the mothers who have lost their children in war and service.
“From the depths of our hearts to the mother of a martyr - a tribute of honour, pride and appreciation - you will remain with values in a great place in souls of sons and mothers of the nation, inspirational, exemplary and the highest ideal.”
General Saleh Al Amri, Commander of Ground Forces, gave a speech before the sheikhs and the families of servicemen at Wahat Al Karama.
Young men and elders in the audience quietly wiped tears from their eyes.
Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, quoted him on Twitter: “The nation that we don’t protect, we don’t deserve to live in."
“Nations are built with arms and citizens’ minds, efforts and givings. On Commemoration Day, we remember and mark the precious sacrifices of our Emirati young men, whose light illuminates the road and deepens our belonging and identity.”
Soon afterwards, footage from the private ceremony was circulating on social media, as the country watched the seven sheikhs walk across the courtyard and lay a wreath for fallen servicemen.
It was the second ceremony that day for at Wahat Al Karama.
Earlier on Thursday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed led a smaller ceremony for the one-minute of silence observed across the country at 11.30am. From the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah to the deserts of the interior, hundreds bowed their heads at that moment for soldiers, peace keepers, police officers and diplomats.
“We stand tall with the sacrifices of our righteous martyrs,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, in a statement tweeted by the state news agency WAM.
“We remember their altruism, their contributions and heroic deeds in terms of the great value that remains everlasting across generations, pushing them to preserve the inheritance of the martyrs and follow their loyalty.”
After the morning ceremony, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted: “Today all of us across the breadth of the nation stand tall to celebrate the righteous martyrs… our hearts beat with them, their heroism and their sacrifices.
"They didn’t leave us but will remain in the memory of every house and every place of our blessed land.”
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, attended a commemoration ceremony at the Emiri Diwan in Dubai. He wrote on Twitter: “Our martyrs and brave soldiers...you will always remain a source of immense pride for our beloved country.”
Other leaders, citizens and residents took to social media to pay their respects.
Sultan Al Jaber, the Minister of State and chief executive of Adnoc Group, called on the Emirates to remain a beacon of strength and dignity, WAM reported.
He said that today was a renewal of vows, where belonging to the homeland firm, and loyalty to the leadership constant.
“Good leadership taught us that a challenge is an opportunity for progress and a better future for those who prepare and define their goals with strategic planning,” he said.
The English hashtags #UAENationalDay and #CommemorationDay were trending on Twitter, with Arabic hashtags, Martyr’s Day, Martyrs of the Emirates, Martyrs of the Nation and the Emirates is proud of you.
The Arabic hashtag, Martyrs of the Emirates, had 17.1 thousand tweets.
Videos circulated on social media showing coffins being carried off military aircraft, servicemen praying over bodies shrouded in flag and children being comforted by the sheikhs. Others showed photos of their children dressed in military fatigues.
Citizens held tributes across the country, from small towns up to the country’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais, where a group from the Ras Al Khaimah sports club raise national flags and a banner that read: “We are all soldiers for the good of the nation”.