Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Looking Forward - The Last Blog (part 3 of 3)

This is it, the 89th and final blog that I'll be writing; it's been a very long road but here is where it ends. I am now no longer in the army and saying it is still quite bizarre, since being a soldier for two and a half years is definitely going to have a lasting effect on me. I still have some final thoughts to share on this post but, unfortunately, this will be the last blog that I'll be doing...

I have summarised and recounted my service enough but as I was finally released from the army, I began to realise how grateful I am for the truly terrific time I had as a soldier. In achieving most of the targets I set out for myself and beyond; experiencing (in my opinion) the most meaningful service possible, as a combat soldier, and completing almost all of what I went through with distinction, I really am lucky with the the service I had. I can break it down to two pivotal moments, which were immensely responsible for giving me the fantastic service that is now behind me. Firstly, passing the 'gibush tzanchanim' and, thus, joining the paratroopers' brigade and secondly, being picked to go to 'makim' (commanders' course). Had one of those two cardinal incidents not have happened, it would have been a totally differnet two and a half years for me, of which I would have had a completely different outlook on and probably wouldn't have been as satisfied with. This is just one of the many things that I am awfully grateful for. There are many soldiers who join the army with high and admirable expectations but, due to a whole array of potential circumstances, are miserable for the duration of their service; from failing a 'gibush' and not getting into a specific unit, to falling to injury, being with less-than-friendly people or simply, not receiving the job they wanted. This has happened and continues to happen to many soldiers (including lone soldiers, of which I know countless examples) and causes lots to be depressed, have an unpleasant service and, subsequently, hate the army. I empathise with them completely and feel indebted not to have gone through those frustrating times. What I am trying to say is that I've been priveleged to have the army experience that I did and, unlike some who draft to the IDF, I got almost everything that I wanted from my time as a soldier.

Despite me parents' insistence on making this post a highly emotional finale to the many blogs I've done over the years about my strong zionism, pride of serving in the IDF and joy of living in Israel, I think I've said all of that enough times and this last blog should instead be about you the readers. I've had quite a substantial amount of feedback from young boys (and girls) over the last three years, who are interesting in doing what I've done and want to make aliyah and join the army as a lone soldier. There may be some reading this now who feel this too and as I've said a million times over, that helping in any way for more young people to start this journey is the best return I could've dreamed of for this blog and I recommend this drastic change in one's life with undeterred confidence. However, I wanted to get across, a slight warning one may say, that everything I have talked about is my specific experience as a lone soldier in the army. Of course there are countless instances where combat soldiers can specifically relate to what I've written and will say how exactly the same thing happened to them. Yet, this is still my individual story and the things I have experienced may not happen to all of those who have read the blog and want to do what I've done. By no means am I taking away the fact that this will be the most incredible life decision that one can do, I am just saying if you're doing this (with the stories from my blog in the back of your mind) just know that you will have your own defining moments, inspirational influences and personal achievements.

Shortly after starting the blog way back when, I said that I wanted to continue it until my release and now that it's here, I'm somewhat proud of myself for actually keeping up with it during all that time. Believe me, there were those short weekends where I hadn't been out of the army in a while and I had no energy or desire to write a post, but I sat down and put my all my efforts into recapturing what had passed that week. I'm not seeking compliments for my efforts here, merely noting how I have kept up with this task through thick and thin, in order to put my story across. As much as it has been for the readers, the blog has also served almost as much for me and although it may sound kind of melodramatic, it has given me strength at certain moments. I cannot begin to count the number of times where something has happened (or I have even gone out my way to do something!!) and I think to myself "that will be great for the blog". When surviving those long weeks in the 'shetach', I would always think about how I would end up describing what I was going through in the following blog; when walking all those hundreds of kilometers at night in the pouring rain, while some were thinking of that hot shower at the end of the week, I was formulating paragraphs in my head!!! Through the various comments, feedback and individual contact that I have received from this blog, I can see that it has had an effect; whether it be to inform, entertain or, even inspire the few that are now starting this awesome journey, I am ecstatic with the final outcome of what started as a small project for family and friends nearly three years ago. The feedback and comments has often been what has caused me to continue with the blog and I am indebted and very much appreciative of anyone who has read this blog.

Some have asked me why I am not continuing with the blog and for me it's a very simple answer. As much as I enjoy the spotlight, this blog has never been about me and my personal story (although that's all I can really write about), instead this blog has been about showing the life of a lone soldier here in Israel. Several lone soldier friends of mine have even said how they simply tell their parents to read my blog, as it saves them time on explaining everything they are doing and feeling! The blog is not my public journal, it's a window into the life of thousands of lone soldiers like me and although it's me who is writing it, this blog was never supposed to be about Sam Sank. As my service came to a close so must the blog and I also feel that the life of an 'oleh' (immigrant) post-army would be a less interesting read. As for my future, after all my blogging and continuous zionist preaching, I hope no one suspects that I would go back to England after finishing my army service! I am now settled here in Tel Aviv and plan to do the real Israeli route of working somewhere by the beach for half a year, before traveling to the far reaches of the world with a fellow 'tzanchan' and then next year, I will be studying a degree in "Government and Politics" at university. It's a solid plan and I am now excited about entering a new stage in my life here in Israel having finished my time as a soldier. So that's it and I thank once again to anyone who has read the blog.

How do I end the blog, my two year and seven month year old baby that I've raised and cared for (!), I had a couple of ideas about how to finish it but, luckily, the perfect ending came to me just over a week ago. On a night out in Tel Aviv over Pesach, I happened to see none other than Gilad Shalit walking around. While some may be apprehensive about approaching him and wary of his resentment to being a "celebrity", I thought otherwise and went up to him. Face to face, I said to him how happy we are that he's back and then I gave him a parting hug. That is what it is all about; having drafted to the army while he was still in captivity, I finished the army to physically see him a free man. I couldn't think of a better way to end this blog.