“When I joined the army, I took an oath. I swore to defend my country, no matter what, as well as my friends next to me. And, that is what I did.”
What makes a hero: Could any one of us match the courage and strength of First Sergeant Yogev Ofir, then the 22-year-old commander of a unit in the Nahal Infantry Brigade? His unit was ambushed in Gaza, killing two soldiers and seriously wounding 15 others.
Yogev was the last man standing, despite his own grievous wounds, after dragging his injured comrades to safety. The force was attacked from all directions, but Yogev noticed a narrow corridor through which he began evacuating as many of his wounded men as possible.
When he ran out of ammunition, he took that of his wounded comrades so he could persist in providing cover for his evacuation efforts. He continued to treat and encourage the wounded fighters. At the same time, he returned fire, even though he himself had been wounded during the fierce battle.
When Yogev finally reached the evacuation crew, he collapsed from exhaustion. He had shrapnel wounds all over his body, and was unable to move his left leg. He has worked hard at Beit Halochem to regain his strength and mobility. He is an enthusiastic member of the Beit Halochem Wall Climbing Club, he has overcome his earlier fears of being wheelchair bound.
He also suffers from PTSD, which brings him back again and again to the same battle. It remains engraved in his soul. “I wake in the middle of the night … with a recurrent nightmare – lots of blood, lots of noise. I have to accept that this is part of my life,” he muses. “Things are okay – I am very optimistic.”
For his courageous actions, Yogev Ofir was decorated by Lt. General Benny Ganz, Chief of Staff of the IDF at the time.