As the opening chapter of the war in Israel unfolds, all a Florida father can do is wait and worry. Mauricio Sigal’s only son is on the front lines fighting in the Israeli Army.
"Are hearts and minds are not here. They are in Israel," said Sigal.
His son, who we cannot identify for safety reasons, was born and raised in the United States. But, because of his Jewish roots, he felt the call to serve the IDF.
Now his family, like other U.S. families, are worried about their loved ones who are hunkered down in a raging war zone.
"We found out this morning that his unit was deployed down to Gaza. So we are all freaking out," explained Sigal.
SCRIPPS NEWS TAMPA BAY'S PAUL LAGRONE: Your son did a very brave thing. When he decided to serve. Why did he decide to serve in the Israeli army?
MAURICIO SIGAL: He felt it in his heart that he needed to be there. He needed to go and learn and be part of Israel."
"Every time we land, we go visit — He felt he was home," Sigal said. "He felt that that's where he belonged. He felt ties to Israel, even though we've never lived there. But he felt that it was his homeland — which it is, you know, it's a homeland for, for all Jews throughout the world."
He added, "We're very proud of him for wanting to serve. I'm very proud of him for wanting to defend Israel and be part of a bigger thing in life. We are still worrying. He is our little boy. The last thing he said to us was no news is good news. And I'll text the guys when I can."
Sigal's in-laws are also in Israel and are hunkering down. LaGrone asked Sigal if he had talked to them since everything started. And asked how they are doing.
"I've spoken to them. I was speaking to them earlier this morning. They're worrying. Obviously, a lot of them can't go to work. They can't go to school; they're hunkered down in their safe rooms. And life is turned upside down," said Sigal.
Meanwhile, all of this happened just two weeks after Sigal’s mother passed away from cancer.
"I mean, it hasn't been an easy month for the family. Not at all. Like you said, my mom passed weeks ago tomorrow. And we're all just still trying to get back to a new normal, I guess, without her around. And we're praying that she's there to take care of my son," said Sigal.
Although it has been tough, Sigal said he is trying to manage every day and keep hope alive.
"During the day, you got to do what you got to do. Yeah, every now and then a thought enters your mind, and you break down. I was driving to work earlier today, and I just had to pull over. I just broke down. Five minutes, collect yourself, keep going. And you have to keep going like that. And the days just move like that," said Sigal.
This story was originally published by Paul LaGrone at Scripps News Tampa Bay.
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