“See me for who I am, not for my wheel chair”

Photo: Ayelet Eder

“See me for who I am, not for my wheel chair”

Photo: Ayelet Eder

“See me for who I am, not for my wheel chair”

Photo: Ayelet Eder

This year, on the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, meet Maj. David Yaakov Shaulker, who serves in the Material Directorate of the IAF on w wheel chair. Ever since he was injured and a violent tumor was discovered, the IAF accompanied him all the way and is a second family to him. “If not for the IAF support, I may not have been here today”

Nadav Berger | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

This year, on the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, commemorated on December 3 every year in order to raise awareness about disabled person’s rights, we bring the story of Maj. David Yaakov Shaulker who serves in the Material Directorate of the IAF since 1995 and for the past three years has done so in a wheel chair.

“I have a place to come back to”
In 2005, while serving as an officer in the Technical Division and preparing for a new position in the Hatzerim Airbase, Shaulker was injured during training back in 2005 and experienced paralysis in his right leg. He was evacuated to a hospital and a few days later it became clear that a violent tumor had developed in his body, the size of a tennis ball on his spine and in his stomach. The tumor was removed in an urgent operation which lasted about 18 hours. “Even though the operation was successful, during the operation a severe infection entered my body”, Shaulker shares. “Over the next ten days I experienced very high fever and complete paralysis. I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was going to die”.

After a few urgent operations for drainage of the infections, he recovered and was moved to rehabilitation after which he returned to service assisted by crutches. “My commander, the late Lt. Col. Yuval Finemeser, saw me as a person and not as a wheel chair, crutches or walker, but for my abilities and the output I bring”.

In 2012, after a number of years in which he continued full service in several positions in headquarters, he was chosen as an exceptional officer and promoted to Major, Shaulker was summoned to a routine checkup, which result’s revealed a new tumor in the pelvic area.

“With assistance of the medical authorities in the Chief Medical Officers Office and the IAF, I flew abroad for surgery and returned to Israel for rehabilitation. To my dismay, six months later another tumor was found and I underwent another operation”, Shaulker continues. “Since early 2013 I have been serving in the IAF on a wheel chair. The sixth and last of my surgeries was abroad in 2014, when I was already married and a father to an eight month old baby. The IAF stood behind me, which was what took the pressure off of me and my family and let me concentrate on the operation and my recovery. I knew that whatever the outcome, I have a place to come back to”.

“Without the military support I might not have been here today”
For about three years, Shaulker has served in the IAF Headquarters as a leader of qualification development in the Technical Division and does so in a wheel chair in an accessible work environment. “Ever since my first injury, the senior commanders, different Heads of Personnel Directorates, Heads of Material Directorate, my direct commanders, Casualties Department, my friends from the unit and Disability Rehabilitation Department in the Ministry of Defense, were always by my side. I always knew that medical retirement was an option, but one that I did not want to choose and lucky for me, my commanders know separate my motoric and cognitive abilities”.

Over the past few years, Maj. Shaulker has been volunteering in empowerment groups for the disabled and has made a great effort in order to implement the change in the Force and the IDF in general. “In comparison to earlier years, there is greater awareness to the importance of integration of disabled persons in the IDF/IAF. But, I think that more can be done when it comes to the drafting of disabled persons and more importantly, making a greater effort to keep servicemen injured during their service”, Shaulker believes.

Additionally, he calls on others to draft to military service despite the hardships. “There is a tendency to believe that when someone is relieved from service, he is being done a favor, but it’s quite the opposite. If I wouldn’t have the Military’s support I might not have been here today”.

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