'Special in Uniform' saluted at President's Residence

"You are living proof that no barrier is stronger than willpower," Rivlin tells special needs volunteer soldiers.

IDF Major Ricki Golan (credit: JNF)

While some young men and women are assiduously trying to evade army service others are fighting bureaucratic hurdles in an attempt to be accepted. They obviously cannot be combat soldiers but they have a diverse array of talents which are put to use and appreciated.

For these soldiers there is no greater joy than knowing they have made a contribution which is recognized and valued.

The soldiers in question are people with special needs who until a few years ago would have been rejected. Today there are 350 soldiers with special needs serving in 22 army bases across Israel in a unit named "Special in Uniform." Some 20 of them came to the President's Residence on Tuesday to receive citations from President Reuven Rivlin and from Russell Robinson, the CEO of the Jewish National Fund of the US, which supports the project.

Rivlin told the soldiers that their desire to serve was important, especially in view of the fact that there are other people who don"t want to serve. People who really care about Israel should join the army, he said, "You are living proof that no barrier is stronger than willpower." The IDF is a great equalizer, he added, because it absorbs all the components of the population, with each soldier contributing in accordance with his or her capabilities, Rivlin said he was very proud to welcome such dedicated soldiers.

Maj. Mickey Golan, a young officer whose father was decorated for bravery in the Yom Kippur War, was born with a breathing defect which affected her ability to walk. The doctors told her parents that she would never walk. Her father refused to give in and would not allow her to give in. He taught her to be stubborn, and although she is lame, she walks - and she can walk unaided. She said that she was grateful to be allowed to serve her country.

Robinson said that because of special needs soldiers, the JNF also felt special. "We are proud of you. Thank you for allowing us to enter your lives," he said.