'My country needs me'

Wounded officer determined not to let shattered arm keep him from Givati.

excellence 298.88 (photo credit: IDF)
excellence 298.88
(photo credit: IDF)
Lt. Ofer Naugauker doesn't take no for an answer, even when it comes from some of the country's top orthopedists and surgeons. He is determined to prove that his will is stronger than his body, and that even with a shattered arm that barely functions he can still serve in a combat position and lead soldiers into battle. Naugauker, 22, sustained moderate wounds in November during the last IDF ground incursion into the Gaza Strip when his armored personnel carrier was hit by two Palestinian roadside bombs. His left arm was shattered in the attack - the bomb left him with a hole in it, as well as severed nerves and the loss of feeling in his fingers. Last week he was notified by his doctors that he will need to undergo another operation to reconnect the bone in his arm with a transplanted one taken from his hip. But all this has not deterred Naugauker from his goal of returning to service and becoming a deputy company commander in the Givati Brigade. His decision was not easily accepted by his family and friends, who all think that he has already sacrificed enough for his country. "Many people think I'm crazy and that I should just quit and go on with my life outside the IDF," Naugauker told The Jerusalem Post. "I sometimes agree with them, but then I think about my friends and my country and I realize that I am needed back in the army." After being evacuated from Gaza, Naugauker underwent a seven-hour operation at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital. His battalion and brigade commander came the next day to visit him. "The first thing I told them is that they should get ready, since I am coming back," he recalled. Naugauker's motivation and exemplary service is what earned him a citation of excellence last week from IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. He plays down the award and claims that in the end he was only doing his job. "I feel like I am on a mission and that I need to return to service," he said. "I am concerned about my soldiers and friends and believe that my country needs me."