On every independence day for over seventy years, the Lebanese people celebrated the army and the independence men. This year a lot of traditions changed and reversed. The Lebanese people celebrated themselves, dividing themselves into groups of communities, professions, and statements, and presented an amazing parade in Martyr's Square, Beirut.
The army officers were content with a symbolic parade, unlike the previous years when their shows and parades were grand and went on for almost the whole day. Of course, they deserve a big celebration; the Lebanese army has been loyal in protecting our land for over seventy years.
And they deserved one this year, but it is a sacrifice they were willing to make for their people. They understand that these days are important for the nation, that the Lebanese people are set to prove their effective role in this country, and that the rights they are claiming involve everyone, including the army officers and their families.
I have no doubt in my mind that our army people were happily making these sacrifices. In fact, one officer stated the following: "We are excited about the Independence Day, and if we couldn't organize a parade for the military, we're happy to help with the one of the people."
And they have done just that: providing their protection, being relentlessly present on protest grounds every day and night for more than a month, and making it clear that any threat to the people will be acted upon. Their most recent admirable act is the one they presented the people with on November 22nd for the celebration of Lebanon 76th Independence Day.
In a distinctive way, the Lebanese army prioritized the people on this 76th anniversary. Their billboards on the streets spread across the country with an incomplete slogan: "Defending the ... of Lebanon". The blank space was for the people to complete, either directly on the posters or on social media.
MEA's Captain Rola Hoteit, as well as renown Lebanese public figures like Tony Abou Jaoudy, Tony Baroud, and Nizar Francis, filled the blank with the word they saw fit, and appeared in the video posted on the Lebanese army official Twitter website.
This was the army's way of giving the people the power and freedom of opinion about the country they want to have and what they want the army to protect.
Behind all this initiative, the message is clear. The Army is respecting the people's need to revolt and wants to help them build a country that fits the Lebanese people only, not the politicians and not the exploiters.
For them to take an occasion that was supposed to celebrate them and make it about the people is absolutely selfless and thoughtful. Lebanese people have accomplished so much with this revolution, but none of it would have been possible if we didn't have the dedication and the loyalty of our army.
The protesters have been giving them flowers, honorably greeting them and showering them with love and respect, and I don't know if it will ever be enough.
If you don't feel lucky yet that Lebanon has such a great army, read this part of the army commander's speech to his officers on independence day:
"Independence is not an occasion that we commemorate annually with celebrations and greetings. It is a renewal of an oath that we took to completely fulfill our duty in order to preserve the country’s flag and protect the dignity of the nation. It is a vow to defend Lebanon, in the present and the future. It will not be shaken due to chaos or incidents, for Lebanon is the nation that joins us all and its flag will forever remain hoisted."