The sea to the left, the open sky above, and the exposed land ahead of us, we arrive to what is by far my favorite checkpoint in Lebanon. Just before you arrive to Batroun, stands a small checkpoint by the sea. Settled there is always a soldier dressed in his green army uniform. As we slow down and reach him, I open the window to the car and both my eldest son and I are waiting in anticipation to say the 2 words that not only are quintessentially Lebanese, but carry so much love in them. As we stand to a halt, looking at him waiting for his nod of the head signaling us to carry on, we look at him and say “marhaba watan” (hello country).
Yes this is how we Lebanese, who don’t believe in much, who don’t believe in our political system, who don’t believe much in each other’s believes, this is how we greet the one thing we believe in, our army, our soldiers. Nowhere else in the world do citizens call their army “watan” (nation). For us, they are our land, our country, and our glory and by calling them “watan”, we associate them with what we hold dearest to our hearts; our country, our national pride.
So this post is a salute to our “watan,” our soldiers, who have and still sacrifice their lives fighting for our small piece of land we call Lebanon.
Those men stand among all the others, standing so strong, proud and tall. The world looks at them, but does not see everything they have sacrificed to keep us free. So I’m here to say, to let them know, that they are loved, even if it doesn’t show. They fight for our hopes, dreams, and liberty. They fight for our freedom… Heroes they are and heroes to be.
As for the kidnapped soldiers in Arsal; you’re never alone, for we are waiting for you to come home. The hardest thing for a person to be is you… a soldier, fighting to keep us free. Because a hero doesn’t always feel heroic in the midst of saving the world, sometimes he looses his own.
So remember the next time you stop at any checkpoint in Lebanon, that there stands before you another hero. Open the window of your car and greet them like a real hero should be greeted, with a smile and two simple words that have so much more depth to them then you realize, and say: “marhaba watan.”
On August 28th 2014, Isis beheaded Ali Al-Sayyed. On September 6th, Abbas Medlej was beheaded, he was only 20. On September 19th, Mohammad Hamieh was executed. On December 5th, Ali Al-Bazzal was executed.
I dedicate the following poem by John McCrae, In Flander Fields, not only to Abbas, Ali, Mohammad, and Ali, but to all the other fallen Lebanese soldiers, our men of honor.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Because nothing to me is more Lebanon then “marhaba watan,” I #livelovelebanon and I will #fighton