"And then the doctor told me: You’ll never be a combat soldier"

Sgt. Gal Ronen has overcome the odds to become a squad commander in the Paratroopers Brigade

Date: 25/06/2012, 12:20 PM     Author: Naomi Roth, Media Branch

Sgt. Gal Ronen has always wanted to be a combat soldier. But when he was in seventh grade, he was diagnosed with a genetic disease that creates holes in the lungs. Despite his illness and after many battles, he managed to get into a combat unit. This week, he will become a squad commander in the Paratroopers Brigade.

“In seventh grade, I was diagnosed with a genetic disease that runs in my family. The disease basically forms holes in my lungs. After they discovered the disease, I underwent a catheterization, and they closed some of the holes. I didn’t tell people about the illness. Besides a few close friends and my family, nobody knew about it,” recounted Gal, age 20.

While in high school, Gal used to sail, including in sailing competitions. In light of this athletic background, he expected to be eligible to serve in a combat unit. However, although IDF (Zahal) doctors qualified him to enlist, he was still considered ineligible to serve in a combat unit. “I reported my disease during the first phase of pre-enlistment testing, lest it be discovered later and complicate my military service,” he explained.

“After my surgery, they told me that I could do everything besides diving. But I still did not receive a medical profile making me eligible for combat service. I’ll never forget the medical committee’s doctor who told me that even if I were an Olympic athlete, I would never be a combat soldier,” Gal recalled.

Gal initially enlisted in a non-combat unit, but he persisted in trying to change his placement. Eventually, this persistence paid off, as he received medical approval to transfer into a combat unit and was ultimately accepted into the Paratroopers Brigade.

Gal’s motivation to serve in a combat unit reflects a commitment to service and to giving back. “There is also the matter of contribution. You learn a great deal about yourself and develop your personality. In the army, you encounter worlds that you never expected to encounter. Many people did this before, and now is my turn to continue it,” he explained.