The ceremony honored relatives of 21 soldiers killed in action and 42 veterans with awards of merit. Similar ceremonies will be held across the country at governors’ offices as well. The gathering was an emotional one, with some participants bursting into tears upon hearing the tragic stories of soldiers killed in action. The proceedings were interrupted at one point when Muharrem Işık, the father of Capt. Tekin Işık, a pilot who was killed when his chopper was shot down in Iraq in 2008, started to cry and then collapsed on the stage just as he was about to receive the award on his son’s behalf. A medical team rushed to the stage, and Işık was carried out of the room for medical attention.
Similarly, Elif Doğan, the mother of Staff Sgt. Hüseyin Doğan, who was killed in the same incident, burst into tears when approaching the stage to receive the award of merit on her son’s behalf. President Gül immediately stood up and consoled Ms. Doğan over the loss of her son. Most veterans who received the award of recognition at the presidential palace were wounded by land mines planted by terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members.
President Abdullah Gül presents the highest national recognition -- the State Award of Merit -- to one of 42 Turkish veterans and 21 fallen soldiers honored at Çankaya Palace on Tuesday.
The ceremony was attended by many Cabinet members and force commanders, including the chief of General Staff. In his speech Gül stressed that he shares the pain of families who lost their loved ones. “The fact that I’m hosting the ceremony here in the presidential palace shows that we honor our heroes at the highest level of the state. On the one hand it is upsetting to relive these memories, but on the other this is the day we honor our soldiers and pride ourselves as a nation,” Gül noted.
He also underlined that the country does not want to see more slain soldiers and veterans while fighting terror. “That does not need to be construed as a weakness, however,” Gül said, adding that the state is resolute and determined to finish off terrorism.