Never in the 23 years of Natan Glassman’s volunteering at an Israel Defense Forces army base has he seen anything like the outpouring of love and respect garnered by American veteran Brian Mast.
“Brian was a celebrity here, and everyone wanted to be with him, from the old ladies who volunteer at the base to the generals,” says Glassman. “He’s a hero but as we saw, a very humble one.”
The “hero” Glassman describes is a 34-year-old Christian, a full-time Harvard University student, and a father of three who, when he was disturbed by the rash of anti-Israel demonstrations both on and around his campus, decided it was time to come to Israel and lend a hand in whatever way he could. And there’s one more key detail about Mast: he lost his legs while serving for the US Army in Afghanistan.
“Those demonstrations seemed so wrong to me on so many levels,” Mast tells JNS.org the day after he returned home to Boston from his volunteer stint in Israel. “As a soldier, I know that if Canada or Mexico or Cuba started shooting rockets into the US, we would react swiftly so they could never do it again and everyone would thank us for it. But Israel is crucified for trying to defend herself from attack and keep her citizens safe.”
The logistics of Mast’s recent two-week period as a volunteer on the IDF’s Sar-El Army Base weren’t simple.
“Sending a guy over with no legs took some doing,” he says without a trace of self-pity. “But I knew I needed to do something real to show my support. Posting ‘I support Israel’s right to defend herself’ on Facebook isn’t enough. Talk is cheap. I needed to get my hands dirty.”
The hand-dirtying in question was sorting and packing up medical supplies to ship out to bases around the country.
“It was no big deal what I did,” he says.