Monday, August 22, 2011

Close to home ...

On Thursday the 18th of August a complex terrorist attack began on the border between Israel and Egypt 150 kilometers from Gaza. The attack began with the terrorists opening fire on a civilian passenger bus on its way to eilat. The bus driver was wounded but kept the bus going attempting to reach the IDF check point, while soldiers on the bus returned fire with their personal rifles. Dozens were wounded, but the word got out and the quick reaction force was on its way. The quick reaction force was from my unit Orev Golani, the parallel team of mine from draft November 2009. They were on site in minutes and as they arrived they hit a road side bomb, but kept going. The first terrorist was run over by the multi ton vehicle and died on the spot. The soldiers then began to exit the vehicle to kill the remaining terrorists. As the platoon sergeant left the vehicle and began to move towards the terrorists he took two rounds in the neck and went down. A sharpshooter shot down a second terrorist and then the squad there began to deal with its wounded. The platoon sergeant was dead and two more lightly wounded, and their vehicle was out if commission after both the bomb and gun fight. By this point a larger response had activated and anti-terror units had arrived and slain a third terrorist. The rest of the day had another few portions of the attack play out and a total of 7 terrorists were killed and another soldier was killed in addition to the one my company lost. The rest of the attack is not my focus though its the reality the loss brought home.

A member of my company was dead, it easily could have been our team and not the parallel team. His funeral was on Friday on Har Hertzel, the Israeli military cemetery. At 1000 stood all those from the company who could come, many being needed to stay back and fulfill the operational mission. The cemetery was full with not only soldiers, but civilians, friends and family.

At 1000 the body arrived, a simple wooden coffin draped over it an Israeli flag. His friends from his team took the coffin and hoisted it to their shoulders. While once they had carried stretchers together in training, today his freinds carried him in a coffin on their shoulders. Before him marched his honor guard, made up of soldiers he had trained as a squad leader in basic training. Behind his coffin came the family, a weeping, sad family. But as sad as they may be the family was not broken, for thrones their son died with honor. He did not go like an Amy Whitehouse with a needle in the arm, but rather in a charge on terrorists while protecting innocent civilians. There son was a true hero, under enemy fire he still jumped from the protection on the armored vehicle to lead his soldiers in combat. What came out in his funeral over and over was how he did everything all the way, and never half assed. Even in his death he went all the way. At the finish of the funeral the honor guard gave a salute of three rounds, each one sending a shiver down my spine. Each bark of the rifles, each time a new round was charged and a shell casing fell to the ground, a shiver went down my back from anew. Each round seemed to add a new level of finality to the whole event. The total finality sank in at the grave side, with the fresh dirt on it. It easily could have been my team, or even me there.

Today rockets are still falling on the south, on a school, on a shul, on houses. Many are calling for a fresh whipping of Hamas even if it means ground operations. After the loss the company suffered we are ready and eager, in the words of Ehud Barak "he who messes with us will have his head separated from his neck."

Rest in peace Moshe Naftali, you will be missed by all. The IDF lost both a great solder and commander, and the rest of us a great friend.

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