Cpl. Daniel Chai had not seen his father in almost two years. As a dedicated lone soldier in the IDF (Zahal)’s Armored Corps, he could not afford the time or money to fly out and visit his family in his native country of South Africa. However, last week as hundreds of combat soldiers completed their advanced Armored Corps training, Cpl. Chai received a special surprise.

A Soldier’s Graduation Surprise

Cpl. Daniel Chai, before the surprise was revealed

Cpl. Chai immigrated to Israel from South Africa two years ago and had not been home to see his family since. He was drafted into the IDF (Zahal) as a combat soldier assigned to the Armored Corps. “I wanted to be a combat soldier and it is hard, but it was what I really wanted to do,” he said.

Cpl. Chai’s mother passed away when he was 12 years old. His father and sister still live in South Africa, though Cpl. Chai and two of his siblings eventually moved to Israel.

Lt. Eviatar Hanan, the soldier’s platoon commander, heard about his soldier’s story and was shocked. “Daniel was my soldier in training. Part of our job includes making sure they stay in touch with their parents,” he explained.

Lt. Hanan described how when all the lone soldiers flew to visit their parents, Cpl. Chai could not do the same because he did not have enough money. At this point, the platoon commander started arranging to fly out Cpl. Chai’s father to Israel for his son’s course graduation.

When Cpl. Chai became engaged, Lt. Hanan used the opportunity to get in touch with his soldier’s new fiancee. Between them and their friends and families, they raised the necessary money to purchase airfare from South Africa to Israel. They were so successful that they raised enough money to buy a ticket for both Cpl. Chai’s father and seven-year-old sister.

Despite all the various hiccups and passport issues, the family successfully landed in Israel. Lt. Hanan brought the two to Yad L’Shirion in Latrun, the graduation site near Jerusalem. There they suddenly surprised Cpl. Chai during the ceremony by announcing that his father and sister were in the audience. “I was so overcome with emotions. Everyone knew except me,” he said with a huge smile after the heartwarming reunion with his father.

A Soldier’s Graduation Surprise

Cpl. Daniel Chai and his father reunited

The graduation signified the end of the 10-week-long advanced combat course. In the course the soldiers learned how to conduct combat in variety of different situations, each with unique challenges.