There is a very interesting phenomenon going on all over the globe, and that is that young men and women are choosing to enlist in the Israeli Defense Force. There is no requirement for them to do so, but for any number of reasons, they feel that it is their duty. We are not only talking about what would be an understandable influx of recruits from Europe after WWII in connection with the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. However, these days they are coming literally from every continent, including Africa and South America, and places that traditionally are not thought of as having much to do with Israel, such as India, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and Southeast Asia, in addition to the USA.
One such young man is Louis Miller, a native of Huntsville, and a graduate of Indiana University. He experienced a life-changing trip to Israel in 2007, and knew then that he wanted to give some of the years of his youth to help protect the future of the land that had changed him so profoundly.
Louis was able to go to Israel through a Birthright Project outreach, a program that makes it possible for young Jewish adults to make their first trip to Israel. Having made my own trip as a senior citizen, I can truly say that “once is all it took,” and I can understand why he was so deeply affected.
Louis chose to become a para-trooper, and won awards for his performance during training. On the last night of his training, he and his fellow recruits made a 55 kilometer ruck march up to the location of the graduation ceremony, which is in Jerusalem proper. They have to carry their ruck sacks on their backs, as well as stretchers that they hand off so everyone gets a chance to get practice transporting wounded. For the whole journey, they only get a chance to stop four times for a very quick meal on the run. As Louis was being interviewed during the march, he did complain that his feet were killing him, as were the feet and backs of his fellow soldiers, but other than that, the guy seems to be tough. You’d have to be, to endure jump training during an Israeli summer, and learn how to survive in the desert.
There is an interesting and touching tradition that is a part of the ruck march, and that is that after the march is nearly over, (which is when the soldiers literally march into Jerusalem), their parents and family members are allowed out on to a steep stretch of road to hug the soldiers. It is as though the love of family is poured out on them to strengthen them when they are the most vulnerable: just before they are triumphant. Louis’ parents came from Alabama to watch him exchange his olive drab inductee beret for the red and black one worn by the graduates, and to receive his commendations. The love and pride they showed for the boy was well deserved.
So far our boy from Sweet Home Alabama has been the subject of a number of videos and pieces written in the Israeli press, and my guess is that there will be more to come. My prayer is that God will keep him safe, and may he be blessed for being willing to take such a great risk for a land that is our ally.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner