Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

They Also Serve


"They also serve who only stand and wait."
~ John Milton, Sonnet XIX

Or, in my case, "They also serve who only sew and iron."

When I moved to Israel in 1995, I knew that my little daughter (then only two) and any other children I might have, would one day serve in the Israel Defense Forces. I didn't worry about it much over the years, and I'm not particularly worried now.

Liat has been in the army since November 2010. She went off to basic training, then took a training course to prepare her for the work she would be doing in her unit. Now she goes off each day to her unit, which is based in Tel Aviv. She comes home at night, unless she has to do guard duty. Of course, she is not in a combat unit, and has decided, despite the suggestions, advice, and pleas of her commanding officers, not to attend officer training school. There is a lot I don't know and don't understand about being in the army (especially all of those abbreviations - the Israelis are just as bad as anyone else at finding abbreviations for everything in the military!), but overall it hasn't been a bad experience for me, so far. Except for one thing.

I didn't realize that I would have duties to carry out, too.

When Liat was issued her uniforms, they were pretty much a one-size-fits-all type of deal. That meant I need to hem the pants, at the very least (I refused to take in the shirts). Once Liat was back home and had started working in her unit, I started ironing her uniforms. She has two shirts and two pairs of pants (that she will agree to wear) so I pretty much end up washing and ironing a uniform every day during the week. I have several women friends here who told me they did not iron their daughters' uniforms, and I shouldn't bother. But it seemed to me that if she is serving her country, such an obligation and honor is deserving of respect, and that includes presenting a proper appearance every time she leaves the house in her uniform. As it turns out, a long-time friend, who just retired from the air force, told me I was absolutely right to iron the uniforms. I appreciated that, especially since I know he is the one who irons his son's uniforms (as he did his daughter's until she finished her service).

And now, after just under eleven months in the army, Liat was issued her corporal's stripes. One patch for each sleeve. Two shirts, a sweater, and a winter jacket. Guess who is now sewing those on?

I didn't serve in the I.D.F., but at least I feel I'm also doing my bit.