The immediate casualties of war can be devastating, especially for a small nation like Israel. But often even more tragic is the plight of those who suffer from the trauma of combat for years after the war had ended, often quietly, alone, with no one truly understanding what they are going through.
Such was the case for Reuven Magen, a young man who survived being severely wounded in the 2014 Gaza War (Operation Protective Edge) only to spend the next seven-and-a-half years mentally reliving the hellish reality he had experienced.
On Saturday, Reuven could suffer no longer and took is own life at the age of 27.
ראובן מגן ז״ל, סליחה.
סליחה שהיינו אדישים לסבל שלך
סליחה שלא הסתכלנו לך בעיניים
סליחה שהנחנו שאתה בידיים טובות
סליחה ששיקרנו לעצמנו
סליחה שחשבנו שהמצב בטיפול ועכשיו זו תקופה אחרת
סליחה שאכפת לנו יותר ממגיפות, מלחמות רחוקות ומזג אויר מאשר ההקרבה שלך ושל חבריך במאבק האינסופי. pic.twitter.com/rYvL9c4ai3
— yishai tamir 🇮🇱! (@yishaitamir1) March 12, 2022
In 2014, Reuven, then just 20-years-old, was part of a newly-formed reconnaissance unit comprised of both armored and infantry forces. Four days into the war, then were sent into Gaza.
Reuven himself explained several years ago:
“Our first two days felt like two years. We went through houses and so many things happened to us. I barely slept. When we arrived in Sajaiya, there was no one there and the place looked like a scene from a movie: houses with no walls, full of smoke and a burnt smell.”
The unit’s mission was to enter and exit Gaza as it sought out and destroyed tunnels used by Hamas terrorists to infiltrate southern Israel.
On July 31, 2014, as they were exiting Gaza, Reuven’s convoy of armored vehicles was hit by a Hamas missile. Five of his friends were killed, and one of Reuven’s legs had been severely damaged by shrapnel.
Reuven eventually was able to walk again following months of surgeries and physical therapy, but the trauma of what he had seen and endured remained, haunting him relentlessly.
“The battlefield never leaves you,” said a friend who had also been wounded during his IDF service upon learning of Reuven’s death.
Reuven’s sister, Avital, told the Walla News site that her brother’s condition had worsened with the onset of the Corona crisis and the repeated lockdowns, leaving him often isolated with his trauma. The more recent Gaza war in May 2020 (Operation Guardian of the Walls) also had an impact, as Reuven watched young Israelis being sent once again into battle.