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Tim Boxer

Major General (Res.) Jerry Gershon, FIDF national director/CEO, welcomes a Navy Seal to FIDF dinner in New York

Tim Boxer from New York:Dani Gets His Medal

By Tim Boxer, posted May 14, 2014

Yael Schiffenbauer came from Israel for the annual New York dinner of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). Her husband Dani was not with her. Instead, their son Amit accompanied her.


Yael and Dani were born in Montevideo, Uruguay. He made aliyah at age six in 1973. At 18 he met Yael, a newly arrived immigrant, shortly before he entered service, dreaming of becoming a pilot.


“In the blink of an eye the boy became a man,” Yael said. “Tzahal does that to you. When your schoolbag is replaced by an M-16, the sense of responsibility to protect your country suddenly becomes very real. The power to kill—and to save lives—are in your hands. It forces you to grow up quickly.”


As a helicopter pilot Dani rose in the ranks to become a squadron commander, charged with training a new generation of combat pilots.


In the Second Lebanon War, fighting Hezbollah, Dani commanded a heroic rescue-under-fire that made him and his crew eligible for the highest award in the Air Force, the equivalent of a Purple Heart.


Dani the hero refused the nomination. He didn’t believe he deserved it — he was just doing his job.


For most of their married life, Dani and Yael lived in family housing inside air force bases. Dani longed for a house of his own. Finally in 2010 he bought a house in a peaceful moshav near the base.


Three days after he moved in he was called away. He flew to Romania for joint training exercises in the Carpathian Mountains.


“He was torn about leaving us,” Yael recalled, “but I had become used to his leaving at all hours of the day or night, being gone for long periods of time, not knowing where he was. This is life in the army.”


As soon as Dani left, Yael began unpacking. She couldn’t wait to see Dani’s face when he returns and finds his books, clothes and army gear all neatly put away.


There was a knock on the door. It was one of their friends. “What a sweetheart,” she thought. “He came to check on me.”


She was taken aback by the look on his face. His usual wide smile was missing.  She knew at once that what he had come to tell her would change her life forever.


Dani’s helicopter encountered severe weather. It crashed into a mountain. All aboard were killed.


This time Dani got his medal. His three sons accepted for their dad.


Wiping her eyes, Yael related her story before 1,400 guests.  Dinner chairman Arthur Stark, CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond, stood by her side.


Fox News Channel commentator Monica Crowley served as MC at the event at the Waldorf-Astoria. “In Israel,” she exclaimed, “they say I’m their second favorite blonde—after Scarlett Johansson.”


By satellite Crowley interviewed troops at the Hatzor Air Base. She asked Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the Air Force commander, how Israel maintains its air superiority. “Monica,” Eshel replied, “if I tell you I would have to kill you.”


That got a rise from the packed audience, including sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, New York Yankees president Randy Levine and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.


A member of the medical corps at the air base described his duties on the Golan Heights during the ongoing civil war in Syria. “We don’t see Arabs, Muslims, Christians or Jews,” the soldier said. “We see only people—patients. We got a call that a Syrian baby suffered a head injury. We took her and the mother in an ambulance to the hospital. On the way back to Syria the mother was singing, calling me a heavenly angel.”


“Why aren’t such stories reported in the media?” Crowley asked.


Around 1,400 guests raised $20 million dollars to provide innovative IDF programs such as helping bereaved families, academic scholarships to former combat soldiers, financial aid to soldiers in need, and sponsoring fun days for combat battalions.


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