Image: Commandos of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front [EPLF], who had destroyed and burned 30+ Ethiopian Warplanes in Asmara Airport- May 1984.
Bob Marley once said, “Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others and you will live again.” Eritrea’s martyrs did not live for themselves. They lived for us and for future generations of Eritreans. They gave up their lives so that we can proudly live as a sovereign people in a free nation. That is why they continue to live in us and will always remain vivid in our national memory.
The Scriptures tell us, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Tegadeltis were famous for laying down their lives for each other in an act of courage and selfless sacrifice on the battlefield. “Me before you” was their mantra when it comes to martyrdom. They fought while facing extreme deprivation and without using language or religion as an excuse. They overcame hunger, thirst and lack of appropriate clothing in extreme temperatures. Sometimes all they had to wear were tattered rags. In lean times, they willingly gave the shirts off their back so that the women tegadeltis can cover themselves. They fought with no air cover while napalm and cluster bombs rained on them. They would even escape from the underground hospitals of Sahel before their wounds had begun to heal to go join their fellow tegadeltis on the frontline. They gave their all until they had nothing left to give.
There aren’t enough trees to chop down in this world to capture the heroism of tegadeltis, but they need to be written for posterity. We often say that our fallen heroes’ sacrifice is the backbone upon which Eritrean sovereignty is made. It’s literally true. Without their sacrifice, Eritrea and Eritreans would not be standing tall today.
One of the most disgusting and nauseating things we have seen in recent years by TPLF-propagandists is the attack on the character of tegadeltis. It’s repulsive and disgusting to the nth degree. Why do these TPLF-propagandists try to dishonor the memory of our national heroes? We know why they do it. Dishonor or disgrace a nation’s heroes, and you can demoralize its people. It’s a standard operating procedure in psychological warfare. But they should know that the Eritrean people are not ignorant of their history. Nor do they have any “memory holes.” We remember all too well how TPLF troops went beyond all common decency and vandalized the graves and desecrated the corps of Eritrea’s fallen heroes in areas they occupied during the 1998-2000 border war.
In a population as small as Eritrea’s, every martyrdom of a precious warrior has a tremendous impact and resolve on the national psyche. On June 20, we mark Mealti Sematat in remembrance of Eritrea’s fallen heroes. The celebration of our heroes and national holidays is an important part of who we are as a people. We will remember all the precious warriors from the Yikealo and Warsay generations who paid the ultimate price liberating the country or defending its sovereignty. Without their sacrifice, Eritrea and Eritreans would not be standing tall today.