(photo credit: IDF )
Cpt. Edan Morag ran through a minefield to save wounded soldiers. St.-Sgt. Dennis Moisaev took over a tank unit after his commander was wounded by an antitank missile. They are among those who have or will receive medals and citations of excellence for outstanding service during the Second Lebanon War.
When the war broke out on July 12, 2006 following Hizbullah's abduction of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, Morag and his unit - Battalion 82 of the 7th Armored Brigade - were already carrying out routine patrols along the Lebanese border. Shortly after the kidnapping, a tank from the battalion ventured into Lebanon to try to catch the abductors and drove over a massive bomb. All four crew members were killed.
Exactly one week later, Morag, 27, entered Lebanon in command of the first armored unit to enter the area, revisiting the same territory the IDF had evacuated six years earlier. His orders were to compile an extrication force for the elite Maglan Unit that was operating covertly just north of the Israeli community of Avivim, near the IDF's former Shaked outpost in southern Lebanon.
Maglan's operation did not stay covert for long, and the unit quickly found itself in the middle of a Hizbullah "nature reserve," and summoned Morag's unit to their rescue. Riding into Lebanon in a Merkava Mk 2 tank, Morag, whose father received a medal for his service during the Yom Kippur War, was followed by several additional tanks and armored bulldozers.
"As I crossed into Lebanon my tank track got stuck," he recalled in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. "I immediately jumped out of my tank and began running towards another tank but then I realized that I was running in the middle of an old Israeli minefield." Ignoring his personal well-being and safety, Morag said all he could think about while running through the minefield were the wounded Maglan troops who were waiting for his tank to evacuate them.
"I did not think about the risk," he said. "They teach us in the army to immediately get on to another tank. By the time I understood I was in a minefield it was too late and anyhow we had a mission to do." Morag made it safely through the minefield, climbed onto another tank and drove off towards Maglan's extrication point. But when he got there he had another surprise waiting for him. He had been told that there were two wounded soldiers, whom he had made room for inside the tank. However, when he got to the top of the hill there were four soldiers wounded seriously, all of whom required an immediate evacuation.
Knowing that time was against him, Morag and his tank crew quickly rearranged the interior of the tank and made room for all of the wounded. In the end, two died and two survived.
On Sunday, Morag was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service from Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi during a ceremony in Tel Aviv. While he is flattered by the honor, Morag said he had mixed feelings.
"It is a weird feeling for me since many other people went in to Lebanon to evacuate wounded," he said. "In the end, all I did was what they had told me to do and what they had trained me to do."
Before the war, Morag had planned to leave the IDF. But now, he is planning a military career and is already looking forward to his next position - which he hopes will be deputy commander of Battalion 82.
"Someone who feels they can contribute should be here in the IDF," he said. "If I say I have values then I need to put them where my mouth is and contribute to society." According to commander of the battalion during the war, Lt.-Col. Motti Bassiuk, Morag is an example of the type of officer that the people of Israel want to know is a commander in the IDF.
"Edan was one of the most distinguished company commanders who fought during the war," Bassiuk told the Post. "He did not fail under pressure and was never deterred from completing his mission no matter how difficult it might have been."
A day later, Battalion 82 was again sent back into Lebanon - this time to provide backup for the Paratrooper's Brigade that was operating in the southern Lebanese village of Maroun a-Ras.
Dennis Moisaev, 21, was the gunner in the company commander's tank as it led a row of five tanks into the village in the early hours of the morning.
"Antitank missiles began flying in every direction," Moisaev recalled this week. The tanks began retreating but Moisaev's tank was stuck between a house and a tank on fire. A minute later, his tank suffered a direct hit, injuring his commander in the eyes and temporarily blinding him.
Without thinking, Moisaev, who immigrated to Israel from Ukraine nine years ago, continued loading the tank and firing into nearby homes and suspected Hizbullah hideouts. With his commander temporarily incapacitated, Moisaev, Bassiuk said, took command of the unit and continued fighting responsibly and level-headed.
"Without receiving an order, Dennis took command and continued firing shells and killing terrorists," Bassiuk said. "What he did is more than can be expected from an average soldier." On September 11, Moisaev will receive a citation of excellence from OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.