From the window of his room at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, while being treated for cancer, Roey saw his first IDF navy vessel. The continual passing of ships, entering and leaving his view, planted a dream in his mind–to be the commander of a missile boat.
When the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases, turned to Roey, he knew exactly what he wanted: to sail aboard one of the ships that he’d seen thousands of times from his window. His greatest wish, however, is to take command of his own navy ship.
Roey’s request made its way through the ranks of the IDF, and eventually reached Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg, the Israel Navy Commander. The navy fulfilled Roey’s request without hesitation, and soon the young boy was sailing aboard the INS Jaffa.
While the ship passed the shoreline of, Roey’s eyes searched for the hospital in the distance, his eyes wandering over the windows. “I searched for the room where I usually sit, where I’ve watched the navy ships pass by. When I found it, I thought about my treatment,” he said. “It’s definitely much better to see the window from the sea than the other way around.”
A surprise gift
The ship’s commander, Major Gal, was excited by Roey’s visit. “At one point, there were scheduling constraints, and Roey’s visit was meant to be transferred to another ship. I was insistent that Roey visit us. This is a great honor for our crew, and it means a lot to us that we can help him have a bit of fun,” Major Gal said.
The young boy received a full tour of the ship, including the engine room and the command bridge. He also had a chance to a see a live firing exercise at sea. “The best part was looking back and seeing the length of the missiles and size of the engines,” he said.
Roey walked across the ship in a navy uniform, just like a real member of the crew. He seemed quiet and reserved, but the ship’s sailors noticed the proud smile on his face. The young shipmate received several gifts to mark the occasion, including a signed certificate from the Navy Commander and a dog tag bearing his name. One gift, however, came completely by surprise.
At the end of the ride, one of the sailors placed a gold chain around Roey’s neck. The necklace carried a pendant in the shape of an anchor meant to represent the navy. “One of the fighters, Daniel, gave it to me while I was sitting at the ship’s wheel,” Roey said. “Without a word of warning, he just wrapped it around my neck.”
The Head of the Navy’s Manpower Division, Col. Michal Teshuva, came especially for the ride. “This is the kind of thing that the IDF is committed to by virtue of being a people’s army,” she said. “Even in an era when the fiscal reality requires a limited visitation policy, we decided to invest a considerable amount in this opportunity,” she added.
Roey’s father: “I hope one day he’ll command a missile boat”
A spokesperson for the Make-A-Wish Foundation said it’s very unusual for the organization to receive requests related to the IDF. ”I remember just one boy who wanted to fly in an F-16, and another boy who wanted to tour an aircraft carrier,” she said. Col. Teshuva was listening carefully and promised to remember the request concerning the aircraft carrier.
A few minutes before returning to shore, the crew gathered to give Roey his silver navy pin. “You’re part of the family and the INS Jaffa, and you qualify for the pin as part of joining the ship and the Navy family,” the commander’s voice boomed from the ship’s sound system. Then came a round of greetings from the fighters themselves.
Standing near the helm, Roey placed the glittering naval pin on his civilian sweatshirt. “I’ll keep it as a souvenir, and hopefully I’ll earn one of my own one day,” Roey said. “Sailing was much more than I expected. When I imagined the trip, I thought they would give me a tour while the ship was anchored at the dock. I didn’t think I’d actually go sailing or that they would demonstrate firing at sea,” he added.
“We thank you for this day,” Roey’s father said to the sailors. “We hope that in a few years Roey will sit where your boss sits today, and that he’ll be in command of this ship.”
This article has been reprinted with the permission of the IDF Blog.