New York-born Israeli soldier Izzy Ezagui lost his left arm in a mortar attack, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the first soldier to rejoin the Israeli army after that debilitating of an injury.
Ezagui, then 13, was visiting Israel in 2001 when a Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a Sbarro restaurant in one of the busiest areas of downtown Jerusalem. According to Fox News, the blast killed 15 people -- including seven children and a pregnant woman -- and wounded 130 more.
The soldier said that’s when he knew his calling in life. In 2007, at the age of 18, Ezagui joined Israel’s Defense Forcers and became a dual citizen.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Miami, Ezagui was initially an IDF volunteer, but then his family moved to Israel. In February 2008, he became a full-time soldier.
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After nine months of training, he was sent to the Gaza border in “Operation Cast Lead.” When a captain in his battalion was killed, Ezagui thought about confessing to his mother that he was being sent to fight inside Gaza. His mother thought her son was washing dishes on the Lebanese border with the rest of the troops.
That’s when he was hit with a mortar shell with a 30-meter kill radius inside his tent. Most of his left arm was torn off. Ezagui was bleeding profusely, his elbow shattered. Others in the tent were wounded, limbs lost and later reattached.
"The mortars should have killed me and all my friends that were right there," he said. "Yet when I woke up after surgery, I had this intense desire to go back."
In the U.S. military an amputee would not be sent back into combat.
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IDF officials refused his requests and encouraged him to go into other work. But Ezagui persisted.
Then Yoav Gallant, Israel’s General of Southern Command, decided to give him the “Okay.”
Ezagui met with the head medical officer of Southen Command, who told him he would be a danger to himself and his fellow soldiers. He offered Ezagui a desk position.
Gallant helped arrange a meeting for Ezagui with the head of an infantry unit who retested his combat skills.
"If I succeeded, they said they would find a role for me," he said. "I had to figure out everything from scratch – un-jamming an assault rifle, climbing rope, jumping over 7-foot walls."
Ezagui is now an active-duty combat soldier.
Five months after going into active duty again, he passed a commander training test, becoming the first disabled soldier to do so.
He is now writing a memoir called “Single Handed.”
However, he did not endorse amputees retiring or going back into active duty.
"I like to share my story and let them take from it whatever they would like," he said.
Source: Fox News