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A SALUTE TO ERITREAN VETERANS

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I just came back from the ELF Reunion in Atlanta Georgia. My first participation ever in any reunion or festival. I am glad I did. This is why:
I witnessed all Berhane told me about the ELF (Jobha) way back in the late ‘70s. He told me that this is the Freedom fighters group that started our liberation war. He made me understand that an alphabet cannot start in the middle, but we have to be able to read the first letters so to be educated. Berhane told me the Eritrean alphabet starts with “ሀ ሁ” and the first part cannot be ignored and for us to pretend and start our alphabet in the middle “ለ ሉ”. Same with the role of the ELF.
I saw history live. I saw my dream becoming a reality and I told my children that I met and shook hands with history.

It all started with observing a moment of silence to remember our Martyrs. They bowed their heads and paid respect to my Berhane as well, a proud EPLF Veteran and Martyr.

The ELF Veterans were kind, gentlemen, and elegant women carrying a knowledge to no end. They each told me their story, their personal involvement to give Eritrea the freedom we cherish today.
They did not insult the non-ELF. They did not deny the credit due to the EPLF, to the Warsay Y’kaalo or to the Eritrean people.

They remembered the villages that took risk and stood by them in hiding their weapons during the liberation war; in sharing water or the last piece of homemade bread “ቅጫ”. They cured them when wounded, they salute them when winners.

They told me about the fathers and mothers who buried their own sons and daughters, and yet helped those around that made it alive. The families that had so much to bear; no one could compare to their fear, but they stood strong. The families with a hope made of steel but deep in their hearts they felt a pain that is hard to shake away. They told me about the wife that stood tall, the children that knew why they were left alone.

All this rolled in one makes Eritrea the land we love so much.

Let us stand by our Veterans and our people and see this time of division go by.
For, Eritrea is unity, is love, help and hope. This is all we saw our Veterans delivering! They did not ask any due back from a free Eritrea. Even though they paid their dues in the battlefields.

They did not tell me the challenges their own families are still going through because today many of their families are the caregivers. Instead, they asked me about my family. They cared to know how my kids are and how they cope with losing their father (Berhane) to the enemy’s torture.

They told me about Eritrean Veterans in Kassala/ Sudan that live with mental, physical and long term financial problems. Let us tell them that we are here for them and never forget all they did to keep us free. They did so much for our dream of independence to become a reality. For liberty from slavery to be our birth right given back to us by each of them.
Now we have to realize that their lives are so precious and true because this time we should fear to lose our Veterans to age, sickness, depression, loneliness and sadness.
For our Veterans, their beliefs sent them to war. Their faith in us
today, gives them hope to witness a day of gratitude simply called Eritrean Veterans’ Day.
I came back from Atlanta, stronger and more decided to fight within my being to provide these Eritrean Veterans all we can. Hoping the Eritrean Government will create an Eritrean Veterans’ Day and provide services to help the Veterans still alive with all the challenges they face along their daily life. Meanwhile I ask – please – all Eritreans to help our Veterans and to help me and guide me in creating programs to assist our Veterans in need with physical, mental, financial wellbeing. This is a generation that is injured to give all of us freedom.

I seek the help of Eritrean Attorneys, Doctors, Teachers, Ph.D. holders and all with any skills to join hands and create a Veterans Day. Eritrean Veterans too, will have to participate and join hands. We cannot make it without them leading us.
No politics, no faith issues, no financial gain is in the agenda of a group striving to create such a day.
Hopefully our peaceful voices will make the Eritrean Government give it a strong believe that all Veterans deserve a day of gratitude and for our

young generations to meet and honor history. I would like to quote President Eisenhower and make his words a guide of what Eritrean Veterans deserve. Because we feel the same way too.

“I have every confidence that our Nation will respond wholeheartedly in the appropriate observance of Veterans Day. (1954) President Eisenhower (attached letter as reference).

Eritrean Veterans lay down their lives so we could live ours. Women and men who did not come home and left their families and children all

alone. For us to be safe and sound. The saddest death for our Veterans is to be ignored and forgotten.

They are today an army of one. Simply called: Eritrean Veterans!

Thank you.
Kiki Tzeggai
August 27, 2016

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