Yehuda Werdesheim, who immigrated from the US to Israel in order to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has been nominated to receive a Citation of Excellence for his outstanding bravery during one of the Second Lebanon War's most fierce battles last summer.
Originally born in Israel, Werdesheim moved to Milwaukee with his family when he was just a baby. But as he neared graduation from high school, Werdesheim's parents urged him to return to Israel and enlist in the IDF, he told The Jerusalem Post.
With just one year of his three-year mandatory service left, Werdesheim's paratrooper battalion was one of the first sent into Lebanon following the July 12, 2006 cross-border abduction of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev by Hizballah terrorists.
One of Battalion 101's first stops was the village of Ayta A-Shayeb, site of some of the war's fiercest and most bloody fighting.
Werdesheim recalled for the Post how on their first morning in Ayta A-Shayeb, one of the anti-tank missiles Hizballah used throughout the war with such effectiveness slammed into the house in which his unit had taken up position.
Werdesheim said that at first he broke down crying amid the devastation and chaos, but was then reminded by another immigrant soldier lying next to him "that this was what we had made aliyah for and at that moment I became the soldier I was trained to be."
As the four-hour battle raged, Werdesheim took a bullet to the shoulder, but refused to be evacuated on a helicopter that had been sent for the wounded.
"All I could think of was that if I leave and something happens to my friends I will never be able to forgive myself," he said.
Werdesheim remained in Lebanon for another four days of intense fighting, helping his comrades to take down dozens of Hizballah fighters, all the while with half a bullet lodged in his shoulder.
IDF commanders have praised Werdesheim for displaying the very core values that they try to instill in every soldier.