It was 2009, my daughter, had started her army service and I knew the beginning was going to be difficult. She was raised as a princess (I plead guilty) and was to get the shock of her life. Though we taken camping trips before, canoed in Northern Canada, spent time in the mountains of Northern Italy, the conditions of the army were a whole different world. Adding to that being yelled at, and punished by someone who is only a few years older than yourself was going to be a difficult period.
During this period, I also found myself in the reserves. I decided to take a day and visit my daughter, not on “visitors day” or during some ceremony but in the middle of the basic training. Given that I was one of the older guys in my unit, I knew there wouldn’t be a problem with taking the day. One of the officers secured for me a pass to her base (one of the larger ones in the south that I had spent many many many days on).
I really wasn’t worried about not being able to see her, or by having one of her officers telling me “I can’t, ” this is the IDF, a “family” oriented army. I arrived after about an hour driving, parked my car and entered the base. Though the base was large, I knew where her tents were and within a short walk of 10 minutes I arrived. Nobody was there, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was 12:30, which meant they were probably having lunch. I decided to do this the “respectful way.” I could have just walked straight to the cafeteria and found her there, but I decided to go to her officer and “ask permission.”
Her officer I presumed was in the little “room” next to the tents. The door was closed so I knocked. A young officer opened the door. I asked her if she was Karen’s commander. My American accent made it pretty clear that I was probably her dad. She answered yes. I told her that I took a few hours off and I came to see her. She looked at me and I could see that she wasn’t really sure what to do, so I decided to help her. I mentioned that I just came from training (that was obvious given my uniform and weapon) and that I managed to get away for a few hours. She mentioned that, Karen is in the middle of basic training and as I must know discipline is very important here. At this point I couldn’t help but smile. The girl in front of me may be an officer in the army and I may be just a sergeant in the reserves, but she is also a 20 year old girl, and I”m old enough to be her dad. I gave her the “dad” look, the one that is slightly condescending that says, ” I know more than you.” I said that its better that as an officer you know that I ‘ll be seeing my daughter rather than not knowing of my visit. She really didn’t have a choice. I promised it would be short, just a few minutes. At that point she understood she really didn’t have much of a choice, she relaxed (maybe she thought of her own dad visiting her), gave me the cute smile of a 20 year old and told me which cafeteria she was in.
I arrive at the cafeteria and enter the main lobby area where I saw two female soldiers (sergeant and a corporal). It was clear that they were her commanders as the way their ranks were nicely sewed on their sleeves and not stuck on with a bobby pin (see karens pict above with her own stripes held on with a bobby pin- classic IDF.
Again I really don’t need their permission, but I did think I would give them the chance to decide how best to do this. So I approached one of them, confirmed that they were responsible for Karen’s unit and mentioned I had already spoken to their lieutenant about seeing my daughter.
They spoke a few minutes among themselves obviously trying to decide how best to handle this situation. They asked that I wait and they will bring her out. The cafeteria is pretty big with many soldiers all over the place. I could see the “girls” at the far end and that they had called Karen out. I could also see the anxiety on her face. No one likes being called out in basic, it is never anything good.
When she exits the eating hall and sees me…..(see the movie below). Moments us Dads live for.