In 1957, Israel Shrir, a combat soldier in the IDF’s Airborne Nahal Brigade, was slated to receive a citation for excellence for his outstanding service including serving as a runner for then-brigade commander Motta Gur, who would later become the IDF’s chief of staff.
However, due to a malfunctioning bureaucracy, he never received an invitation to his awards ceremony, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported.
On Monday, President Reuven Rivlin invited Shrir, 79 and a Holocaust survivor, to finally receive his award in person.
The former soldier, who went on to work as a school principal after his service, attended the modest ceremony surrounded by his 13 children, 17 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, along with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
“I am happy to right the wrong and to award you this citation. Better late than never,” Rivlin told Shrir Monday.
In response, Shrir recounted his experiences — from the Holocaust, when he hid from Nazis in a cavern inside a ghetto, to his eventual immigration to Israel in 1949 and ultimately, his military service.
“I’m extremely excited to have my extended tribe here beside me. I wouldn’t have merited to see them here had I received the award as a soldier,” Shrir said.
“Going from a child who crawled out of a cave weighing only 17 kilos, I became a fighter in the Israel Defense Forces,” he said.
“We came to Israel battered and bruised, but we survived. We were men of action, we excelled and we built the land. If the recognition doesn’t come now, when will it? We are slowly disappearing,” he said.
In addition to Shrir, Rivlin handed citations to 15 reserve army units.