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Blind soldier awarded Presidential Medal of Excellence

“Both my elder brothers, parents, and extended family all proudly served the IDF, and they all recall this period as a very special and wonderful time in their lives,” related Salmon. “I never perceived my blindness as an obstacle to joining the IDF. I never imagined that I wouldn’t be able to give what I yearned to share with my country and people.

“When I first arrived on base though, I did secretly harbor a fear of the unknown. I wondered how I would be accepted by my peers, and if I would be suited to a military framework? Today, after a year and a half of military service, I can say with confidence that it is not only an excellent opportunity to contribute one’s utmost to society, but also an opportunity for personal growth. I was accepted on base with open arms, and I really enjoy the service and opportunity to meet people. I’m gaining incredible life experiences, and I bless you all that you should enjoy the same comfortable acclimation and meaningful, enjoyable service.”

Ori explains that “Initially, the army needed time to digest the fact that I was introducing new concepts that had never previously existed here—like programs in Braille. The army isn’t familiar with such programs, because they’re essentially civilian programs, and so it took time before I was able to receive a computer with the software that I required. There are always challenges and hardships; life isn’t a piece of cake, but we need to be optimistic and look ahead. If there’s ever something that frustrates or aggravates me, I still do my best not to reach the point of self-pity. It’ll be hard—that’s for sure. But it’s still possible to cope with any challenge.” Among the many behind-the-scenes steps that Ori took to ensure her smooth acclimation to military life was practicing the route from the bus stop closest to her home directly to the airbase entrance.