lone soldier 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the town of Clemson, South Carolina, the local slogan is “our blood runs orange,” the color of the Tigers, the hometown college football team.
When Roy Welsh, 25, came here last year and enlisted into the IDF, he showed up at the Tel Hashomer Induction Center with his Clemson Tiger sweatshirt. When he left, he was already humming a new slogan – “our blood runs on purple” – after he was drafted into the Givati Brigade, known for its purple beret.
Born and raised in Clemson, Welsh is the child of a mixed marriage; his
mother is Jewish and his father is Christian. Both his parents, though,
are Zionists, he said, who instilled within him a passion for the State
of Israel from a young age.
He also grew up in a military home with several uncles who served in the
US armed forces and a grandfather, with whom he is still close, who
fought in World War II.
The first time Welsh though about coming to Israel was shortly after the
second intifada broke out in 2000. In his sophomore year of high
school, he thought about getting on a plane and coming to fight against
“I understood though that I wasn’t ready,” he said.
Then again last year he started getting the “itch” as he calls it. At
the time, he was teaching 10th grade history in a local high school.
With no Israeli consulate nearby, Welsh contacted the embassy in
Washington and began inquiring about the possibility of coming to serve
in the IDF. One of the aliya representatives asked him if he had ever
been to Israel.
“I said no but thought it was okay since a lot of people moved to Israel
in the 1940s without ever being here before,” he said. “The Israeli
representative recommended I go on Birthright, which I did and
immediately fell in love with the country.”
After arriving last July, Welsh studied in ulpan for five months and
then was drafted into the IDF and sent to the Michve Alon base in the
North, where the IDF helps prepare new immigrants for their military
service. From the beginning, he asked for a combat unit but was slightly
shocked when meeting his new unit mates, all about seven years his
“It was interesting and at the same time different,” he said. “The small
town I came from in South Carolina doesn’t have the hutzpa like they
have here in Israel. This can be good and bad.”
While hutzpa gives “flavor,” it took time to adapt, he said, to having 18-year-olds “pop off at me.”
After seven months in the army, these 18- year-olds are some of Welsh’s
best friends, and he is considering signing on for additional service at
the end of his mandatory stint next year.
After his discharge, Welsh said he would like to return to teaching. “At
first I thought I would spend a few years living as a single guy in Tel
Aviv and then go back to the States, but now I am thinking of staying
in Israel,” he said.
“Wherever I am, I would like to teach.”