No one knows what tomorrow really holds. In the army, that is true not so much of tomorrow, but of the day after your current segment ends. Elie is about to finish the third of these segments.
The first was his basic training. During that period, he learned what it meant to be a soldier, the discipline, the routine, the responsibility. He learned to follow orders, to stand in line when commanded, to sleep when told, wake when ordered. He learned not only to shoot a gun, but to care for it, to understand what it can do and be aware of its location at all times, even in sleep.
The second was advanced training in his unit and task. Here he learned to master what the army wanted him to know, to master the massive vehicle that would get him and his unit to the location, to care for the machine so that it would serve the needs and get them back safely. He became a unit with other soldiers, learning to work with them, interact with them, rest with them, bond with them.
The third was training to teach him to command a unit, to take the lead – both in battle and in the regular operations that an army does to protect its citizens. This involved learning as much about himself as about others. Elie learned to control his emotions, to act with his mind, to talk and explain a situation – and to issue orders when the explaining wasn’t appropriate. This is the way the Israeli army works. Order your soldiers – but inform them when you can, of what you can. They protect your back…you lead them into battle. They will fight for you, with you, beside you and behind you because they know you are with them. This is the Israeli army.
After this week, Elie begins his fourth segment. What tomorrow holds…what that segment holds, Elie still does not know. Days away, the army must have a plan. Elie will learn only today or tomorrow. He’ll probably tell us only on the day of the Closing Ceremony we will soon attend.
What amazes me is that Elie has weighed his options. He knows his preference and has accepted that regardless of what he may prefer, the army will have its way. As they pushed him into the Commanders Course, knowing it was right for this young man, they will continue to guide and direct his time in the army. He continues to volunteer for the ambulance squad when he comes home, taking the night shift when he can. He has accepted that he won’t be a medic in the army and has moved on. He has accepted that his next role will be in command and his mind and body are prepared for orders he will soon receive.
Since this is, to some extent, about me as much as it is about Elie, I will tell you that I am less prepared for the next phase. I will adapt, as I have so far – but mostly because I’ll watch Elie glide with ease into the next phase as he has into these last three. What wonders he will discover about himself is a mystery right now, but there will be wonders.
For me, I know that each day in the army brings him closer to “that day,” and I dread that day more than any other in my life. That day…is the day that Elie faces a real enemy, under real conditions. The day his training is put into action and the consequences of what he and others do aren’t measured by anything less than life itself. I don’t know if there is a single combat soldier in Israel who hasn’t faced that day – not in our almost 60 years of existence.
Too much to contemplate on this beautiful day when I want to focus on his Commanders Course ceremony this week. Too much to think about with work and other family commitments, so I’ll put that fear back deep into my heart and leave it there. That fear and I will talk one day, but not today, perhaps tomorrow.
What tomorrow brings, will come tomorrow. For today, Elie is safe on base, excited to be near the end of this course, and committed to conquering whatever mountains and trails the army puts before him.