US Soldier’s Path to Service, through the Israeli Army

A Department of Defense article highlights the unique story of Daniel J. Houten, an enlistee with the Georgia National Guard.  He’s now in basic training — but he hardly took the traditional route to get there:

Houten…wanted to join the U.S. Army — but without a GED and 15 hours of college credit, he was ineligible.

An acquaintance told Houten the Israeli Army recruited new soldiers simply because they were Jewish…
Although his religious faith had diminished somewhat, he still identified himself as a Jew and felt strong connections to Israel, the homeland of his people, culture and religion. He decided this should be his next step in life.

Houten learned Hebrew and was a mechanic on armored personnel carriers in the IDF for nearly two years.  His experience gave him self-confidence, and it also made him more fervent in his faith:

“Being in Israel and the homeland of my religion, ethnicity of my people and going to all sorts of holy and incredible places was amazing to see,” said Houten. “Since then, I would definitely say I’m a much more spiritual Jew.”

When his initial enlistment was up, he chose to come back to the US:

As much as I feel a great affinity for Israel, I was born in Brooklyn. I’m an American boy, but I do miss Israel.

Back in Georgia, he once again wanted to join the US military, but faced the same problem.  He joined the Georgia National Guard and found himself in the National Guard’s GED Plus Program in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  He earned his GED and, notably, was able to faithfully practice his religion.

He read the Torah daily, observed the Jewish Sabbath and broke the traditional Sabbath challah bread with his fellow student warriors.

Houten is now in training at Fort Benning.  His story was also covered by Time‘s website, though it focused more on the differences Houten found between the two nation’s armies.