'All reservists deserve recognition'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged the extent to which reservists disrupt their civilian lives in order to ensure the security of the nation.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi all acknowledged on Thursday the extent to which reservists disrupt their civilian lives in order to ensure the security of the nation, and the toll this takes on their nonetheless supportive families. Speaking at the fifth annual Lag Ba'omer salute to reservists in the IDF, all three said the sacrifice and commitment of reservists is not properly appreciated by the nation as a whole, nor are people sufficiently aware of what reservists are doing in preventing terrorist activity, engaging in active combat, carrying out dangerous, complex missions and undertaking search-and-rescue operations. Deciding which units would receive citations was not easy, Barak said, because all reservists are deserving of recognition. Both Barak and Ashkenazi commended Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan, a former master sergeant in the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, and also a dedicated reservist, for pushing through the Reservist Law, which after five years of debate, was finally approved in April of this year. The law stipulates the maximum number of days that reserve duty must be served and provides compensation for loss of income, in addition to tax breaks and other benefits. Barak said one of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War was the need to ensure that reservists trained regularly and were updated on IDF innovations. Ashkenazi expressed pride in the devotion of the reservists and the excellence with which they served. "Excellence is not a matter of coincidence or a one-time thing," he said. "It's a way of life. We are going to need reservists for many years yet. Israeli society cannot afford not to recognize its warriors and heroes." Ashkenazi also pledged to continue to work "to bring our soldiers back from missions whence they did not return." Peres said even though the state was created as a result of a vote by the United Nations, it would not have been able to exist without the IDF, and the IDF would not have been what it is without the added value of its reservists, some of whom have participated in nearly all the wars in which Israel has been engaged. With the introduction of new needs and new technologies, the IDF places less reliance on reservists than it used to, Peres said, but there was a time when the nation was the army. There was a certain injustice, he said, in the degree of responsibility placed by the many on the few - or rather - by the few who wanted to take on the onus of responsibility. "But the best will always give more," he said, "simply because they're better, because they are guided by conscience." Lt.-Col. Sagi Tirosh of the Hartuv Infantry division of the Home Front Command, speaking on behalf of all the officers and their units, said none of them had gone to serve out of a desire for recognition, but had done so as a sign of their confidence in the IDF and its value system. Each had been guided by his conscience and his love of the homeland. Tirosh said he could not conclude his remarks without urging that more be done to bring home Gilad Schalit, Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and all other IDF service personnel who disappeared while on active duty. "Every passing day brings with it greater fears for their well-being and quells any sense of optimism," he said. At the conclusion of the official ceremony, photographers and video cameramen jostled to get a photograph of Tirosh's six month's old son Ro'i in the arms of Ashkenazi. The infant was passed around from officer to officer and eventually to Peres and then Barak, who worked out in what year the baby would be inducted. "No he won't," asserted a soldier in the crowd. "By that time we'll have peace with Syria and he won't need to serve."