We are the parents and feel it necessary to express our point of view regarding the life of Alex Sasaki and his death, in light of some of the recent news reports. We have seen and heard pain from many of those closest to Alex (in response to the reports), which has encouraged us to tell our story of his life before and after coming to Israel. We believe it’s a good story (in spite of our bias). While we could go on and on for pages and volumes, hopefully we’ve achieved a goal of making this reasonably brief.
Even before coming to Israel, Alex had many of the great qualities highlighted in recent descriptions on the Internet: great smile, affable personality, fun-loving, great sense of humor, kind spirit, etc. But perhaps the main difference, before his journey to Israel, those qualities were many times used for, and focused on obtaining, self-satisfying searching – essentially trying to “get” things that might make him happy (which is not unusual for a young person, or perhaps many people of any age).
The change we saw after his initial trips to Israel (starting in 2013), which accelerated as he became highly focused on his goal to serve in the IDF (specifically the Golani Brigade, and including making aliyah in 2016), was that his intention began to transform to one of service. Not overnight, and certainly no one is perfect, but he was gaining a different perspective on life.
Then, once he finally was drafted into the IDF and got his first choice of serving in the Golani Brigade, his opportunities for helping others exploded. Over and over, we were told by many people who knew and interacted with Alex during this period, and particularly his platoon brothers – Alex was interested only in giving, not getting, and was extremely successful in putting that way of life into action.
So, for Alex, life within the IDF/Golani Brigade and most specifically being a part of his platoon, was in no way a problem. It was actually the perfect vehicle for him to utilize all of his gifts/talents (including cooking, art, humor, calmness under pressure, etc.) for maximum service.... It became clear, he was experiencing the fulfillment we all seek.
Obviously, serving in an IDF combat unit (or even the armed forces in general) can be extremely challenging, and we know many soldiers require various forms of assistance at every stage. We respect those making true efforts to help those in need. However, we found it crucial to highlight Alex’s actual IDF experiences for those who love him (his brother Kevin, relatives, his fellow platoon brothers, past and present friends, etc.) – that service in the IDF was essentially his salvation, not downfall.
We thank all those who helped Alex achieve his dream of serving in a combat unit of the IDF. And we believe, because of his drive to challenge himself by directing his path toward the harshest of circumstances, it afforded the greatest opportunities for helping others, thereby allowing him to experience the brightest sunshine of his life.
And finally, we have immeasurable gratitude for the more than a thousand people who attended Alex’s service, and the hundreds who went out of their way to stop by during shiva, to offer condolences, love and support – for us, our family and Alex, in our time of greatest need. We now fully understand why the IDF and Israel became his chosen family and home.
The authors are the parents of Alex Sasaki, a lone IDF soldier who died last month.