Injured on the frontline

Ben Baker Morag with Storm.

WHEN Ben Baker Morag served in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, he was on the frontline. A member of the Oketz (canine special forces) unit, Morag and his dog, Storm, would lead the way on each mission, sniffing out potential threats.

“We were close to death and trying to survive every day,” Morag told The AJN during his recent Melbourne visit with Zahal Disabled Veterans Organisation (ZDVO) Beit Halochem.

On no occasion was his life more at risk than when the duo led a team of paratroopers to the door of a three-storey building in Gaza, potentially housing terrorists. In order to enter, explosives were strapped to the door. But the building was booby-trapped – and the entire side wall collapsed.

Baker Morag immediately reached for Storm, using his own body to shield the Belgian Shepherd-cross-Great Dane as they were buried beneath rubble.

“Thankfully, Storm was fine, with not even one scratch on him,” remembered Baker Morag.
But the soldier was not so lucky. “I had broken teeth, a shoulder that was dislocated five times, gashes across my body, and bruises.”

While Storm recuperated at an army veterinary facility, Baker Morag was treated in hospital.

But though he was physically unscathed, Storm refused to eat and was disinterested in exercise – until Baker Morag visited.
“Many people will never get the experience to trust a dog with their life – and again and again, I did,” he mused.

“We trained together and we became one. We knew each other based on body movement. We worked together and trusted each other and could surpass any encounter.”

With recurring shoulder issues affecting his return to service, at his mother’s insistence Baker Morag became active with Beit Halochem – the organisation responsible for providing care and rehabilitation to 51,000 injured soldiers and victims of terror at four centres in Israel supported by ZDVO.

“It is not easy going from being a soldier of the special forces, to a veteran with an injury; or from the army to a citizen,” he said. “But you meet other injured veterans and help each other heal. They understand you, mentally and physically.”

While receiving rehabilitation, Baker Morag helped launch a physical and psychological program for those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder with their dogs. It was a great success, with slots doubled for the upcoming program. “Beit Halochem empowers veterans to help others in any way they can.”

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