An almost accidental Rambo

I was sat watching Rambo.

Now, what the hell has Rambo got to do with you?

Because Rambo happened.

I want to tell as many people as I can about the ‘accidental’ Rambo I met. I met Aric in October 1974. A tall almost emaciated Yemenite soldier. He was admitted to our Shell Shock Unit. He had been in a general Psychiatric Hospital –where he had thrown the director into a decorative pool.

To the director’s credit, he got out and threw Aric in the pool.

Then he sent this misfit to our unit of complete misfits; The Shell Shock Unit.

Aric was almost mute.

All he would say was incomprehensible.

We could follow nothing.

So I gave him Pentothal.

Until Aric we could always trace the cause of the trauma and recycle in a way that somehow made it ‘psyche-digestible’. But Aric just went berserk. In those awful long nights I was obsessed not by the mayhem that we were seeing. Why was it not working? An injection then complete chaos. Till then it had been the opposite. I had to get Aric back…. and I could not. Then one night I reasoned like this:-

Aric under Pentothal is virtually Psychotic. So why not give him an injection of anti-Psychotic intravenously? At midnight, I phoned up my boss and asked permission. Tomorrow I would inject both Pentothal and an anti-Psychotic.

At eight in the morning we started. In went the Pentothal and we lost Aric again to his demons. In went the Anti-Psychotic and Aric stated repeatedly:

‘Carol, how big he is. So small he is.’

That was it.

Nothing more.

But something.

Like all successful Pentothals, Aric woke up. But this time I was at a loss as to what had happened. I asked him what “How big he was – How small he is” meant? Who is Carol? Aric simply looked amazed. “How do you know?” “Did I say that?” As in a very few other Pentothals we had gone to the wrong place in time. The ‘wrong trauma’. With Ephraim we had blundered into Auschwitz. With Mike, a hysterical blind victim, we had found ourselves in a tank battle in 1971. With Shalom we were in a Moroccan prison. Aric had gone back to 1967 — the six day war. …….

Aric had a son called Shai. Shai, his only son, had died before the six day war started. In the six day war Aric was a non-combatant. He was a driver of the Burial Corps. He was present when the Clergy tried to piece enough body parts to bury.

Sometimes there was not enough.

What there was they put in ammunition caskets and nailed that in the coffin and filled the rest with earth to make up the weight.

Carol was Aric’s neighbour. There was barely enough of Carol, a very tall guy to put in the ammunition box. Aric sat by his friend Carol’s coffin all night. He asked Carol to look out for his dead son Shai when they met. He muttered to himself — well you know what….After all Carol was very tall and now there was not enough to fill the ammunition box. Aric and all his unit had sworn to keep the secret of what happened when preparing the dead that week.

The Chief Military Rabbi then asked them made them swear an oath never to tell. Honour the dead and their memory. But Aric had told. Under Pentothal. Six years had passed. Inadvertently he had told us.

In his eyes this was unforgivable.

I want to jump forward a month. We worked a lot with Aric and made real progress. The Chief Military Rabbi in the Yom Kippur War visited us. It was a warm spring afternoon. We sat on thee grass and the Rabbi answered questions. Aric asked if what he had done was excusable? Aric was well known and respected. So there was a very heavy silence.
The Rabbi turned to his two assistance. “I now declare this a Rabbinical Court and we are now in session.

Aric Chanuka cover your head.” The rabbi then placed his hand on Aric’s head.” This court absolves you from all your oaths that you took in 1967. This court absolves you from all guilt.” Aric said “Rabbi, these guys have fought hard for me, to help me, but no injection helped like this”. We were all in tears.

But I have still to explain why Rambo.

What happened in 1973?

First a bit of history and a brief explanation. The Egyptian were helped by the Sudanese commando brigade as they crossed the Canal. In accordance with Soviet doctrine, they were doped to their eyeballs with Ritalin. The Sudanese were the bane of our soldiers existence. They were big, fearless with bulging ferocious eyes. They were unstoppable. Well almost unstoppable. Aric stopped one. But at what a price Here’s how. ….

Aric was a tank driver. They were trying to stop the Egyptian advance. They were surrounded by Sudanese.

The Sudanese were unstoppable.

They were like a swarm of locusts.

They were everywhere.

Aric’s tank commander was a greenhorn. This irritated Aric who felt he had a liability and responsibility. Aric wanted to get everyone home safely. He drove over Sudanese. He mowed them down. Aric was doing well. He was getting out of the mess. Then it went awfully wrong.

The tank commander was sat half out of the tank.

A Sudani killed him. Aric went after the Sudani. Aric got out of the tank and fired a machine gun at the Sudani.

The Sudani kept coming .

Aric was screaming at him “Die — you are already dead.” More rounds and still the Sudani is running.

So with one long burst Aric cut the Sudani into two.

But still the legs of the Sudani kept running.

Aric passed out and was mute.

Months passed by. The treatment was working.

Aric then did something that no other soldier of mine did. He went back into reserve duty. My mistake maybe, but also fate played a hand.

Aric was posted to almost the exact spot where he had fought his Sudani. Then it was the demarcation line between the Israelis and Egyptians. Aric dissociated.

He saw the Sudani and Aric attacked.

Aric was running, weaving and firing as he advanced on the now docile Egyptians.

There was only one way to stop him.

We ran Aric over with a command car. In the turmoil, Aric was shot in the leg. There was an enquiry. There always is.

This one was fair. The investigators told me that Aric was a few yards from singlehandedly starting the war again.

There was grudging admiration for Aric’s soldiers’ craftsmanship. My mistake was generously overlooked. The authorities let it pass.

I went to see Aric in hospital. The Orthopedic Surgeon asked me if this was another faked malingerers suicide. I told him that it was not.

No this was a real genuine Israeli hero. Till this day that brings tears to my eyes.

Aric almost started another war. But his own never ended. The Sudani never left him. He drifted. Aric was in and out of trouble. Often they wanted to put Aric in a closed ward. I stopped them. But it was getting harder. Aric’s wife and neighbours were all suffering from his outbursts and wild behaviour. Then one day the Police phoned. It was three in the morning.

They were laughing at this lunatic that admitted to a murder.

“Did he murder someone?” I asked, a bit nervously.

The reply was negative “Only some Sudani,” accompanied by more laughter. I said OK — tomorrow we’ll put him into the closed ward and I put the phone down.

Then it hit me. So I phoned back to the Police.

“Are you sure that he said a Sudani?”—” Yes very sure” was the answer.

At three thirty in the morning I got Aric out of the holding cells.” You realise that the Sudani is dead — no more nightmares”. I took him home. Nothing sensational. We were both very tired –of everything. Things got reasonably manageable but never anywhere like normal. Aric made a living as a Taxi driver.

Very rarely I saw him.

One day a journalist came to my clinic.

She asked if what she had heard was true?

—- A taxi driver had told her his story without identifying himself. He had picked her up as a fare by the clinic. How did she find me? Aric had said that whenever he felt bad he would drive by the clinic. He knew if things got really bad he could always go in. That was enough for him.

Aric’ s wife died of cancer. So did Aric. They are all together with Shai, Carol and the two Rabbis. Wars are fought and payed for by heroes. But heroes who did not ask to be heroes. Aric was an accidental hero and a great guy. I don’t know what this did to you. If you think on Aric for a minute — that is good. I sent this to people I know well, people I don’t know well, people that will understand and people that will not. If anyone is offended — well I am sorry. I simply wanted to share and honour Aric. I hope that you do too.

Forty years later and I still mentally salute Aric. God rest his soul.

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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