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January 4, 2016 6:35 pm

What a US Military Veteran Learned From Serving in the IDF

avatar by Brian Mast

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US Army veteran Brian Mast.

One year later, as I reflect upon my service to Israel, I am so proud as an American to say that I have stood alongside both the defenders of the United States and the defenders of Israel. As a result of this military service, I have learned a great deal about myself, our two countries, and why we are — as I learned to say in Hebrew — brothers.

The first thing that struck me as I donned the dark green uniform of the Israeli Defense Forces, and for the first time since my own injury while serving in the US Army returned to the life of military service, was just how welcoming every IDF soldier I encountered was. Each soldier would greet me with a smile, a heartfelt thank you for coming to stand along side them, and then a sincere inquisitiveness about why this American on two prosthetic legs was back in uniform, thousands of miles from home.

At that time, all I really knew for myself was that I had decided to come and show my support for Israel because not long before, while in the vicinity of an anti-Israel demonstration in Boston, several protesters turned their aggression toward my pregnant wife and our young boys.

The aggression we experienced was a direct result of those protesters recognizing me as a US Service Member. It became immediately obvious to me just how quickly those who scorn Israel turn their hatred towards the United States. It was that moment when I decided I could no longer stand idly by, and that I had to show my support for Israel with more than words.

US war hero Brian Mast serving in Israel.

US war hero Brian Mast serving in Israel.

With each day that I served in the IDF, it became obvious to me that there is only one country in the Middle East that embodies what a peaceful Middle East must look like. It is not Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen, or any other state. As an American I could only possibly want the Middle East to look like Israel.

The IDF soldiers whom I had the honor to serve with were all proud supporters of America. They identify with our mutual respect for all people, with the truth that we are all endowed with unalienable, God given rights, and with the ideals of freedom, democracy, and individual responsibility. I witnessed a fighting force that was not driven by hatred for their enemies, but rather love for their people. I stood alongside these fighters, who never ask America to come and fight their battles for them. I witnessed a creative people who adapt and overcome all challenges, who have turned a desert into a garden, and who have been among the most creative inventors to ever contribute to the world.

I learned at the Shabbat tables of my hosts just how much each family truly desires peace between every neighbor of Israel, regardless of religion or history. It is the sad reality for every family in Israel that a son or daughter will one day have to fire a weapon in defense of Israel, and possibly give their life in defense of their home. Each family I encountered only desired for their children to grow, to be educated, to travel — not to have to go to war. This is, of course, in sharp contrast to many Palestinians, who hope their children become martyrs.

As I move forward in my own life, now as a candidate for Congress here in the United States (www.MastForCongress.com), it is a fact that my experience of serving alongside the Israeli Army will shape my actions as a member of Congress.

Israel and the United States want the same things, and share the same goals. I will not let Israel face its enemies alone. I will work to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel. I will work to expand America’s security assistance to Israel, as well as our assistance to combat attacks against Israel from rockets, missiles, and tunnels. And I will work to hold accountable those like Iran and Hezbollah who actively work against peace for America and Israel. My conscience demands no less.

Brian Mast is a candidate for Congress in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, and a decorated US Army Special Operations bomb technician, who has also volunteered alongside the IDF.

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