When my English teacher told my class that we were going to interview someone who was involved in the army, I immediately knew who to contact. Though many of my mother’s family enlisted in different countries’ armies, her first cousin, Dror, came to mind.
Dror lives in Israel which has a draft at age eighteen. He participated in “Nachal,” an infantry unit, from 1981-1985. First, he fought as a regular soldier, and then he became a medic. After 1985, he was in the reserve service as a medic, and, recently, he switched to a soldier psychologist. At any moment, his officials can call him and request his service for his country.
Although Dror mentioned many negative consequences of war, he talked about how he made his time enjoyable. In 1982, Dror traveled through a central road through Beirut in an armored vehicle convoy. He explained, “It was like going through the New York City of Lebanon in a tank.” He took detours through nature reserves and hiked whenever he had time. He took photos like a tourist in the middle of the war in order to make his service more like a free vacation. Dror tried to cultivate Lebanese citizens by speaking Arabic. These civilians gave Dror and his friends freshly grown cherries in exchange for food. Dror treated this as a very positive relationship. Dror’s team guarded the Lebanese families and made sure everyone was on good terms with each other (and he even got to eat fresh cherries on the job). Even though the atmosphere was tense in Lebanon, Dror tried to look past it and treat it as a joyful vacation.
Dror also talked about the bad side of war. In 2006, his officials called him in as a reserve and asked him to go to a certain point in the northern tip of Israel. Dror said, “When I got there, I saw twelve stretchers that were covered, and I knew what that meant.” After noticing the stretchers, he received a message that a missile hit and left twelve people dead and fourteen injured. Dror’s mission was to help the remaining people return to safety and go to a bunker to understand what had happened. Though people were clearly traumatized by the rockets, he needed to minimize their chances of PTSD. After half an hour of talking to the survivors, he walked into a big room with the dead bodies in order that he identify their names and notify the families of deaths of their loved ones. “Although it was difficult to stay composed,” Dror admitted, “someone needed to do it.”
Dror admitted that he knows too many people who suffer from PTSD, so it is difficult to identify a specific story. Nonetheless, he told me a story of a good friend of his who was stuck in a bunker for thirty-six hours straight due to a rocket attack. Luckily, he safely returned home, but his mind never stayed the same as before the attack. This man never talked about that story until 2005, several years afterward. Many times during the week, Dror’s friend would walk by Tel Saki to stare at the bunker in which he spent a day and a half. He finally went to a counseling center and was told to gather all twenty-two people who spent the time in the bunker with him and make a ceremony to remember what had happened to them. Dror’s friend did not think that he could bear seeing those people again. However, his wife threatened to divorce him if he did not face his fears. Weeks later, Dror’s friend successfully brought everyone together and conducted a ceremony that remembered their time in the bunker and the horrors that war brought to them. Ever since running the ceremony, Dror’s friend’s PTSD has gotten better.
It stumps me how Dror’s stories are still as vivid as when they had happened to him. People do not forget about their experiences in war. Soldiers are either traumatized by memories of war, or they choose to embrace these experiences. It is an honor to know someone who has embraced his life as much as Dror.