Friends launched a social media campaign on Wednesday in a public appeal for people to attend the funeral of an IDF lone soldier from the US, amid fears that his extended family and army comrades would be unable to attend.
Corporal Alex Sasaki from Laguna Beach, California, had been serving as a lone soldier in the Golani Brigade. He was found dead while on leave earlier this week. The Israel Defense Forces said it was investigating his death, with suspicions that Sasaki may have taken his own life. A post on the Hebrew language Facebook page My Israel urged attendance at Sasaki’s funeral scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
His parents, who had flown into Israel for the funeral, will be sitting shiva (Jewish mourning rites) at the Crown Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, the post said.
The post said that his comrades from the Golani Brigade were unable to attend the funeral because they had been deployed on the Gaza border amid mounting tensions following repeated rocket fire from the Strip in recent days.
Similar calls went out over Twitter.
“From everything we remember the little things; the continuous, infectious smile, the friendship. His willingness to always do what was needed, to volunteer for everything, with modesty and a smile,” the post on My Israel quoted an unnamed army comrade as saying.
Sasaki had studied at the University of Oregon before moving to Israel and enlisting in the IDF as a combat soldier.
The IDF said that Sasaki’s body was found at his home earlier earlier in the week and that his family had been notified, adding that the military police were investigating the circumstances leading to his death.
“The IDF shares the sorrow of the family and will continue to support them,” the statement said.
Lone soldiers, troops who do not have family or support in Israel, frequently face a host of social and economic challenges during their service. A State Comptroller’s report last year found the army was struggling to provide necessary and relevant services to them.