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US Veteran Becomes Israeli Hero


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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Each year thousands of Jews and Christians from around the world volunteer to join the Israel Defense Forces.

While everyone who gives his time to help is special, one U.S. veteran is standing out as a hero.

Brian Mast served as a U.S. Army bomb disposal expert in Afghanistan when a hidden explosive device took his legs. But that didn't stop him from volunteering for the IDF.

"I saw a need in my own country to show support for Israel and so I did it," he told CBN News.

As Mast watched news coverage of fighting in and around the Gaza Strip last summer, he grew frustrated with how the media and world leaders criticized Israel even though it was under fire.

Mast said as a soldier, he couldn't agree with the criticism of Israel for defending itself.

"If any of our neighbors, whether it be Canada or Cuba or Mexico, were firing rockets into the United States -- that guys like me or guys that I served with or anybody else in our military -- we would be in those locations immediately to destroy those enemies so that they would never have the capability to be able to do that again," Mast continued.

The conflict, he said, lit a fire under him and he wanted to come and help.

"Coming from a soldier['s] background -- I spent 12 years in the service -- I wanted to find a way to do that militarily," he explained.

Mast came to Israel through a program called Sar-El. It brings volunteers from all over the world to help the IDF. CBN watched volunteers assembling medical kits for soldiers in the field.

"We're packaging narcotics that could be used, like morphine," Mast said. "We're packaging tourniquets; we're packaging IVs. These are all things that combat medics carry with them. I myself had three tourniquets placed on me when I was injured, and these are the kind of stuff that they need."

Sar-El head Israel Geva said the organization was established to help people from other countries to do something worthwhile for Israel.

"Sar-El is an organization that exists already for 33 years. It was created to give an opportunity to -- first of all to the Jewish people around the world -- to give a hand to Israel," Geva told CBN News.

Over the years, more than 160,000 volunteers have served through the program. Now, about 25 percent of those volunteers are Christians.

Geva said volunteers help with logistics, freeing up soldiers and reservists for other duties.

"And they give a hand in maintaining and keeping this equipment as you see here. This is medical equipment," he explained. "In some bases you may find people working in controls or in communication equipment and this is all over the country -- almost more than 40 bases."

Lea Calderoni serves as a liaison between the IDF base and the volunteers. She said Mast has been a big hit on the base.

"I think for all the soldiers who are here -- also in the base -- it's an inspiration. [He's] sort of a hero also in Israel," she said.

Mast said he was raised in a Christian home that supported Israel and he learned Israel was America's brother and greatest ally in the region. That is the message he'll take home.

"One of the terms I've learned since being here is 'achim' -- the term 'brothers.' I think that we in the U.S. and those here in Israel, I think we are brothers….We're brothers because we have the same hope and the same desire for the future. We want to see freedom."

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